Seoul, Korea: gateway to Asia

3211005201310021k_Incheon International Airport

It’s said that an airport is like a small city, operating 24 hours a day and dealing with challenges from food supply to weather emergencies to moving people around.  Perhaps one of the reasons why Seoul’s Incheon Airport is such a success is that its president and CEO, Park Wan-Su is the former mayor of Changwon, Korea – population 500,000.

Incheon (ICN) may employ “only” 40,000 but it’s growing apace. Serving 89 airlines to almost 200 destinations, the city served over 40 million passengers last year.  Almost 8 million of those were transit passengers, proving the airport’s success in positioning itself as a great choice as a gateway to Asia.

3211005201310019k_Incheon International Airport

How is hanging around ICN any better than other gateways such as Hong Kong? Of course there’s free WiFi – and has been since 2008. All airport signage features English. There are some unusual ways to kill time including a movie theatre, ice-skating rink and a botanical garden featuring a café with a glass roof so you can watch the planes take off and land overhead.  Not to mention shopping that Randy Snape of the Korea Tourism Organization in Toronto describes as “Unreal.  I’m not a shopper but I make a point of getting to Incheon 4 hours early.”

shopping IncheonEven more unusual, you are encouraged to leave the airport on free guided tours lasting from 1 to 5 hours (if you have more than 3 hours you can take a tour right into Seoul).

Clearly these bite-size introductions as well as efforts of the tourist office are paying off:  visitors from Canada to Korea (of whom about 40% are on business) are set to clock in at some 10% up year over year.