One of the hot topic of the month
This is the 90th in a series of articles highlighting tourism spots in Seoul. The guide for planning weekend trips in the capital city will help readers rediscover
Julia came to Seoul in late July at the invitation of her Korean friend who had visited Vancouver to study English the previous winter. Thanks to the 2010 Seoul Grand Sale membership card, which she got when she went to Myeong-dong with her friend, her stay in Seoul was better than any other trip she had taken to any other country.
Julia, who has been a big fan of figure skating, became interested in Korea after being dazzled by the performance of Kim Yu-na at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. In addition, she was informed that Seoul was offering special benefits to foreign tourists during the 2010-2012 Visit Korea Year(s) and decided to visit Korea rather than Japan or China, the countries she had been considering as possible destinations.
On the first day of her visit, she went to Myeong-dong and caught an upbeat outdoor performance. She also received a pink membership card for the 2010 Seoul Grand Sale at a nearby promotional booth. The staff handing out the cards kindly explained that she could get discounts at about 5,000 retail shops in Seoul by just showing the pink card. That was great news for Julia as she was having some trouble selecting the best tour courses to fit her tight budget.
She decided to have Korean traditional bulgogi for lunch at Amiso, a nearby restaurant. The calm, Oriental-themed interior of the restaurant charmed her, and the bulgogi tasted totally different from when she had tried it in Canada. Showing her Seoul Grand Sale membership card, she received a 10 percent discount. As she left the restaurant, the waiters and waitress politely bowed.
Julia carried the pink membership card for the 2010 Seoul Grand Sale everywhere she went while she stayed in Seoul. She got a discount of 4,000 won at Lotte Cinema and enjoyed the non-verbal performance “Jump,” which combines Taekwondo, the national Korean martial art, with a compelling and hilarious narrative, with a 20 percent discount on the admission. When she discovered that the Hangang Water Taxis, a new tourist attraction of Seoul, were also offering discounts to membership card holders, Julia decided to take a ride on one, too. During her 40-minute journey boat trip, she fully enjoyed the scenery of the city, the tranquility of the Han River and the fresh air. Her little pink card had made her a VIP in the city.
The Midsummer Shopping Festival
The Seoul Grand Sale is a large-scale shopping festival that was launched in 2008, and this year marks its 3rd anniversary. This year’s event kicked off on July 21 and will run through Sept. 12. Centering on the four special tourist zones in Seoul (Myeong-dong/Bukchang-dong/Namdaemun, Itaewon, Dongdaemun fashion town, Jongno/Cheonggyecheon), as many as 5,000 retail stores are participating in the 54-day shopping festival, which is a whopping six-fold increase over 2009’s event. The Seoul Grand Sale has evolved over the years to now offer substantial discounts to customers in a wide range of stores: from duty-free shops, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, performance halls and beauty shops to even health care centers.
Especially, the “Big 20” includes not only the nation’s 20 largest and most popular store chains, duty-free shops, convenience stores, coffee shops and restaurants, but also numerous tourist attractions, such as the Hangang Water Taxis, the Ssamjigil, National Museum of Korea, Lotte World and cultural performances (Nanta, Jump and Sachoom). It is fair to say that almost everything tourists can enjoy in the city has been incorporated in the 2010 Seoul Grand Sale.
Grand Sale Supporters
The Grand Sale Supporters, 40 college students who serve as volunteers, play an active, albeit background, role. The supporters visit the participating stores in advance to check they are actually offering the promised benefits to customers and if any inconvenience has been experienced in using the membership card and coupons. They also create festival related content through various channels, such as Twitter and blogs, to provide useful information for potential customers at home and abroad.
Many of the supporters have a good command of foreign languages, such as English, Chinese and Japanese, and have enjoyed much success in public relation activities targeting foreign tourists. The supporters are playing a big part in promoting the event, thereby making Seoul one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Chen Yang, a Chinese student studying at Hanyang University, is participating in this year’s festival as a supporter, and thanks to his cheerful personality, he is very popular with his fellow supporters. He said, “It has been three years since I came to Seoul, and over the years, I have come to see the real charm of the city. This is why I decided to participate in the Seoul Grand Sale as a supporter and promote Seoul as an exciting tourist destination. I hope that many foreign tourists will reap the substantial benefits offered by this event and make pleasant memories during their stay in the city.”
How to ensure full use of the 2010 Seoul Grand Sale
1) Check the website of Seoul Grand Sale thoroughly
Information on participating stores is available in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean on the official website of the 2010 Seoul Grand Sale (www.seoulgrandsale.com). You can also download discount coupons and participate in various events on this website. Considering the large scale of the festival, you need to check the website carefully to determine which stores are participating in the event, where those stores are located and what kinds of benefits they are providing.
2) Use the membership card
The Seoul Metropolitan Government first introduced the membership cards to the 2010 Seoul Grand Sale to make it more convenient to use. Last year, coupon books were distributed from tourist information centers, but those paper coupons were inconvenient to use. Therefore, the Metropolitan Government adopted the membership card, which can be slipped into a wallet like a common credit card.
You can get discounts and a variety of benefits at about 5,000 retail stores by just showing the membership card. Once a membership card is issued, it can be used repeatedly during the festival. Without having to follow any specific procedure, anyone can be issued a membership card at airports and tourist information centers in the city. The membership cards are classified by color: pink cards are for foreign tourists and blue for local residents. When you arrive in Seoul make sure to apply for a membership card for the Seoul Grand Sale before doing anything else.
3) Check the benefits for foreigners only
Many stores participating in the event are applying different discount rates for foreigners compared to local residents. Department stores, duty-free shops and hotels are providing discounts only for foreigners, while the benefits offered by some coffee shops and movie theaters differ for foreigners and locals. Most stores are offering additional benefits to foreign tourists, so you need to check the exact discounts that apply to you on the official website before visiting the stores in question.
By Seoul Metropolitan Gorvenment
Source: Korea Herald