The mayor of Chuncheon expressed hope on last Friday that hosting an international leisure sports festival will help catapult the city into the position of a mecca of tourism and leisure activities for domestic and foreign visitors.
The fifth edition of the Chuncheon International Leisure Sports Festival, which kicked off the same day with new competitions and programs for visitors, had run until August 15, last Monday.
“By successfully holding the festival, we will offer visitors opportunities to think of Chuncheon as a top location for leisure and tourism,” Chuncheon Mayor Choi Dong-yong said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. Choi serves as the chief of the festival’s organizing committee.
“To achieve the objective we have decided to hold the biennial event on an annual basis, alternating between domestic and international events.”
The festival’s venue is the Songam Sports Town in Chuncheon, a city in South Korea’s northeast province of Gangwon which sits 85 kilometers northeast of Seoul. It will play host to some 5,000 local and foreign athletes from 31 countries.
The festival, which first started in 2010, aims to promote Chuncheon as the nation’s top leisure and tourism city. With its beautiful Uiam Lake, the city has been trying to attract people who like to experience leisure sports.
Asked about the city’s budget plan for the event, Choi said the municipality has trimmed this year’s festival budget by 30 percent from 2014 to 1.9 billion won (about US$1.7 million) as part of its efforts to focus on substance rather than size. Because of this, the organizing committee has singled out popular international events such as drone racing and extreme kicking.
This year’s festival has featured 14 sports events — five international and nine local. The organizers said extreme kicking and drone racing have been added to the international events for the first time. The other three international competitions are the International Actions Sports Championship, World Latin Dance Festival and Airsoft Survival Festival.
“The festival into which the city’s budget is poured should contribute to boosting the local economy,” the mayor said. “Revitalizing local businesses is up to how many visitors we will be able to secure for this festival.”
In order to increase the number of visitors, the organizing committee has expanded the scope of programs that visitors can experience spontaneously. For domestic events, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, an RC car off-road championship and a car drift competition named “Maxpower Drift Muscle” had made their debut in the festival.
26 events were offered to visitors, the largest in the festival’s history.
Visitors could go down a 90-meter water slide, participate in a water gun battle, and ride kayaks, paddle boats and yachts. In addition, there were a free ice hockey lecture, a supercar exhibition, K-pop concerts and dance performances.
Some programs like hot air balloon rides were a hit as tickets for such programs had been sold out the day prebooking started. The festival got underway with some practice matches and qualifiers, while its opening ceremony took place on Saturday evening featuring performances by K-pop idol groups and a fireworks show.
Choi stressed the importance of linking the festival’s sports activities to tourism assets held by the city in an effort to lure more tourists to the city known for several man-made lakes. The municipal government has completed such tourist attractions as a skywalk to get a closer look at a lake in the city, a hall on toy robots and a village featuring renowned South Korean novelist Kim You-jeong.
“If visitors not only take part in the festival but also pay visits to these tourist attractions nearby, Chuncheon will see its tourism activated and get a new changing image as an international tourist spot. At the end of the day, the name of the game is to get athletes and general people to visit Chuncheon to seek leisure and sports activities,” Choi said.
About how the mayor will prepare for the next few festivals — a domestic one next year and an international one in 2018 — Choi said, “By judging from the trends in the leisure industry, and understanding new changes in it, we will make better preparations for the coming festivals. In the mid and long-term viewpoints, projects to effectively offer leisure activities and tourism activities together should be implemented.”
The mayor also said, “One of the reasons why we are seeking to make Chuncheon a top city for leisure and tourism is the city is endowed with the most suitable natural environment for leisure activities that involve the maritime, land and airborne fields, as the city is surrounded by lakes, rivers and mountains.”
At the time leisure activities are growing to be something indispensable to everyday life, Chuncheon has high growth potential in the leisure market. “We hope Chuncheon will be a big player in creating added value by linking tourism and festivals,” he said.
The city expects that it will have more facilities to woo more tourists than ever to the city after 2018, when Lego Land, a Hello Kitty Theme Park and a ropeway on Mount Samak will be operational.
“The future vision for Chuncheon is tourism and nature. It’s leisure that puts the two areas together,” Choi said.