ASTA Puts Spotlight on Korea

Travel agents looking to grow the Asia segment of their business will be able to draw on a number of resources come March 2007. That's when the American Society of Travel Agents convenes its first International Destination Expo to take place in Asia.

Jeju, Korea's largest island, is known for many things, including about 100 different varieties of oranges and tangerines

Rather than convene a World Travel Congress in a different venue each year, ASTA modified its program philosophy to provide annual in-destination programs alternating between Asia and Europe.

The inaugural expo took place in Europe earlier this year; the 2007 expo is scheduled for March 25–29 in Jeju, Korea.

"It's an opportunity like no other to really get to know the destination and suppliers," says Kristina Rundquist, ASTA's vice president, communications.

If Prague, site of the 2006 IDE, was any indication, Rundquist says, agents attending the Jeju event will get a chance to sit down and talk with small suppliers and vendors they would not normally see at other industry shows.

The bustling urban streets of Korea have always drawn tourists

"Many of these are local companies that simply can't afford to exhibit at ITB, TheTradeShow, WTM and the like, so this really is a unique opportunity to make contacts that your competition doesn't have access to."

Joanne Gardner, CTC, an agent planning to attend IDE-Asia, concurs.

"Going to the IDE meetings allows me to meet the local DMCs (destination-management companies) and ground operators that we would never meet here in the States."

During the course of next March's expo, Rundquist says, retailers will be able to sit in on seminars about the destination, its culture, its selling points and who the ideal potential visitor is, she adds.

Some of these "Stone Grandpas" are hundreds of years old

"Agents who attend will come back with a solid understanding of how to sell the area, in addition to a first-hand experience in not only Korea but whatever other Asian destination they chose to take their pre- or post-trip in."

Jeju, Korea's largest island, is 40 miles off the southern coast of Korea. Its natural attributes include beaches, waterfalls and caves, observes Maureen O'Crowley, Korea Travel Organization marketing manager, who has made presentations about Korea and Jeju at recent ASTA chapter meetings.

She notes that visitors to Jeju may come across some of the island's hundred or so varieties of oranges and tangerines, and the dolhareubang, or "grandpa stones." Other iconic elements include the "sea women," who carry on a long tradition of harvesting animals and plants from the ocean.

Gardner, president of the Midwest Chapter of ASTA, whose agency is based in Wheaton, IL, is a frequent attendee of ASTA events and will be heading to Jeju in March. This will be her first trip to Korea.

"I do a good business in China/Hong Kong at the moment and want to expand my knowledge about the rest of the area," Gardner says. "My personal knowledge includes China, Japan, India, Thailand and Hong Kong, so there is a lot more I need to learn.

Delegates have the ability to earn destination-specialist status for several countries in Asia and the Pacific during the expo, including Korea and India, as well as for Jeju itself.

More Help for Agents

Other programs designed to help agents grow their Asia business include a seminar on selling the emerging destinations of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, selling the island destinations of Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, matching clients to cruises and boosting sales of exotic cruises in Asia and the Pacific.

Additional programs scheduled as of press time include soft-adventure opportunities in Southeast Asia and an interactive program about creating a buzz among clients about Asia.

Delegates also get to select one half-day and one full-day tour of Jeju—choices range from learning about Korea's 1,100-year ceramics heritage and making an item themselves to learning about the culture-rich Korean tea ceremony and taking part in one during a visit to the largest tea farm in Korea.

Other choices are visiting a traditional five-day market and a jaunt that includes time at the ShinyoungFilmMuseum and JejuVillage, which shows how people lived centuries ago.

Another outing combines a visit to imposing Mt.Sanbangsan, dotted by rare orchids growing right in the rock, and Bunjae Artpia, the world's largest outdoor bonsai garden.

If You Attend

Registration is $259 per person for agents who belong to ASTA and $309 for those who don't. Delegates also can draw upon preferred pricing for air with a number of carriers, as well as for lodging with multiple hotels.

The conference section of ASTA's web site provides current details, as well as hotel and air booking forms available in PDF format online. For further information about the expo, contact ASTA's meetings department at [email protected] or visit

Delegates also have a number of pre- and post-expo tours from which they can choose. These include remaining in Jeju, exploring other parts of Korea, or going to another country in the area, such as China, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand or Vietnam.

Itinerary and tour-registration details are at The ASTA staff tour contact is Andie Snider (703-739-6876; [email protected]; fax 703-739-8717).

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