As Korea’s second-largest city and home to one of the largest seaports in the world, Busan boasts a bustling economy that draws conferences and experts from across all sectors. It is also home to an array of seaside hotels, a burgeoning beachside business and leisure complex, the world’s largest department store, and unique tourism attractions that vividly paint the timeline of modern Korea’s economic growth.
“Busan’s MICE industry has shown steady resilience, which is all the more impressive given the international media’s preference for focusing on our northern neighbour,” Busan Tourism Organization president, Jeong-bo Shim, said. “Korea’s tourism industry overall does take a hit from negative press such as this, however Busan and its meetings industry in particular continues to show continual growth.”
Busan recently hosted several large events, including an incentive trip for 8,000 delegates for multinational retail group Canai, and the 95th Lions Clubs International Convention, where the city welcomed 55,000 participants.
WHERE TO STAY
Busan offers more than 50,000 rooms, and 10,000 of these are within 10km of the Busan Exhibition and Convention Centre (BEXCO). Here are a few of our favourites:
Westin Chosun Busan: Occupying prime real estate next to Haeundae Beach, the five-star hotel offers 290 top-quality room in the city’s meetings district, near BEXCO and Nurimaru APEC House.
Paradise Hotel: This five-star hotel provides some of Busan’s biggest meeting spaces, including a 631sqm Grand Ballroom, as well as the Paradise Casino, which is only open to international visitors.
Ramada Encore Busan: This new four-star property houses 402 rooms in a convenient location in downtown Haeundae, just ten minutes’ walk from BEXCO.
Shilla Stay Haeundae: An offshoot of Korea’s luxury hotel brand Shilla, this property offers affordable accommodation without skimping on quality. The new Haeundae branch features 407 rooms in both Korean and Western styles.
Ananti Cove: Busan’s new luxury resort complex includes the five-star Hilton Busan, membership-only Ananti Penthouse suites and residences, a shopping town, natural hot springs, and stunning waterfront views.
WHERE TO MEET
BEXCO is the city’s premier meeting place. Its 90,000sqm of space is split over two large exhibition centres (26,000sqm and 19,000sqm), three large convention halls, and 22 conference rooms. Several four-star hotels surround the facility, while the city’s shiniest seaside hotels are just minutes away.
Bay 101 Yacht Club (pictured), which lies on the western end of the glittering Haeundae Beach, is among the city’s most glamorous venues. Its outdoor rooftop space, conference rooms, 500-pax clubhouse, and large yachts have hosted events for luxury automotive brands and after-parties for the Busan International Film Festival.
For a venue with a more industrial setting, there’s F1963. This former wire factory has been converted into a mixed-use complex with an exhibition hall (700 pax), bookstore, artsy cafe, makgeolli rice wine brewery, restaurants, and outdoor courtyard event space with capacity for 300 people.
Meanwhile, commanding a glorious coastline view in the East Busan Tourism Complex, is the new Hilton Busan. The hotel offers luxurious accommodation with a nature-themed interior and endless horizon views. The hotel features a Grand Ballroom that can accommodate up to 1,500 people, as well as a 977sqm junior ballroom with wide ocean views.
WHAT TO DO
Conference delegates in Busan will quickly familiarise themselves with Haeundae, which is not only the city’s convention district, but also a hotspot for its beach and party culture. Festival-goers flock to Haeundae every October for the Busan International Film Festival and One Asia Festival, while shoppers make a b-line for Shinsegae Centum City, the world’s largest department store. The nightlife is vibrant thanks to a wealth of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
For sightseers, Busan offers as many great views as it does mountains; a nighttime trip over the harbour via the Songdo Cable Car rewards with constantly-changing scenery, while a stroll along the coastal cliffs onto the transparent Oryukdo Skywalk is the safest way to walk on water. Downtown, a 360° panorama of ports and peaks can be enjoyed at the Busan Tower in Yongdusan Park.
Just downhill from the tower, the city’s traditional markets remain as lively as ever and continue to be the go-to place for the best local food. The aptly-named Gukje International Market and neighbouring Bupyeong Market sell wares from far and wide, while Jagalchi Market is one of the best places in town to buy and eat fresh fish.
Visitors can also venture south into the hills for a wander through the pastel-coloured houses of Gamcheon Culture Village. Once a shanty town for refugees fleeing the Korean War, the village has been transformed via government sponsorship into a lively cultural attraction, with its residents both providing and actively benefiting from the welcoming services they provide to curious visitors.