Jeju Shinhwa Sees Return of International Visitors, Signals Post-COVID Recovery
Posted on: November 29, 2021, 01:14h.
Last updated on: November 29, 2021, 06:05h.
It’s been a long and difficult period for Jeju Shinhwa World in South Korea. The integrated resort (IR) recently saw its first action in almost two years, welcoming a group of travelers from Singapore. It wasn’t much, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The visit comes after Singapore and South Korea signed a pact this month to create a travel bubble between the two countries. That agreement also allowed South Korea to receive its first air passengers at Incheon International Airport since early last year.
“This overseas group tour will be remembered as an important milestone in opening up the post-corona tourism era in Jeju,” a representative of Jeju Shinhwa World told local media.
Around 30 people arrived at the IR from Singapore on Nov. 25, according to local media. Visitors had access to the property’s casino, its amusement parks, and dining facilities.
Some South Korea including casinos first closed in Nov. 2020. The country has gone through several rounds of closures for entertainment venues, bars and casinos. Jeju Shinhwa was closed for nearly two years because of the pandemic closures.
Continued Struggles for Jeju Shinhwa
Jeju Shinhwa, a Landing International Development property, has had a rough go of things since it was first conceived. As is typical with large construction projects, the IR’s initial launch was delayed several times. It was going to open in December 2017, but later the launch date was moved to January 2018.
It was then changed again, as there were issues getting the casino license in place. Finally, in February, the first phase of the IR’s operations began.
Some forward progress was noted in 2019. However, a Chinese decree that prohibited travel to South Korea slowed everything down. The pandemic in 2020 didn’t help, with COVID-19 causing the second-largest foreigner-only casino additional problems.
To top it all off, a brazen employee reportedly absconded with $13 million in a massive and embarrassing heist. The employee was later arrested, with police recovering most of the money. Some had been stashed in a hidden safe at a VIP room at the casino, while another part was found at the 55-year-old employee’s home.
Welcome Changes Coming to Jeju
With the possibility that things might begin to normalize, big changes could be coming to Jeju. Should they arrive, the IR could ultimately get on the right track. It might all come down to one company’s dream.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeju Island was the most-visited domestic tourist destination in the country. However, the only luxury boutiques on the island are those located at Jeju International Airport. But those boutiques are not open to local visitors.
According to local media, Shinsegae, operator of the country’s largest retailer, opened a pop-up store for Chanel, a French luxury brand, at its The Shilla Jeju Hotel in March. The goal was to assess the market potential for luxury goods. It was a success, and local retailers were shocked to discover that many of the items were sold through pre-booking.
Now, thanks to a partnership with US mall giant Simon, a Shinsegae Simon mall could be coming to Jeju. Shinsegae Department Store President Chung Yoo-kyung wants to build it into a landmark destination that offers a shopping mall, a resort, and a theme park.
According to a company official, “We will bet on luxury brands solely to build Jeju Island as a global tourist destination like Hawaii.”
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