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As 2018 Olympics near, lodging crisis looms

Feb 27,2017
이미지뷰
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics is only a year away, yet construction has not begun at the scene of the China Dream City, at the village of Jeongdongjin, Gangneung, Gangwon. On the right is one of the “floating hotels” proposed to resolve the impending lodging crisis. [GANGWON-DO MARITIME TOURISM CENTER]
The China Dream City project in Jeongdongjin, Gangneung, Gangwon, where 948 guestrooms were to be completed in time for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, is now little more than a lonely forest road with no trace of construction underway.

“Last year there were countless Chinese tourists visiting,” said Kim Na-yeon, 60, a restaurant owner who ran an eatery in the area for the last 15 years, “so I had high hopes when I heard hotels were going to be erected, but construction still hasn’t started.”

China Dream City was designated as an Olympic special project operated by the Chinese foreign investment company, SCI Holdings, involving an intended 487.3 billion won ($430 million) investment. The plan was to open hotels in January 2018 after starting construction last August, but after the decision by the Korean government to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, the investment funds did not arrive.

With the PyeongChang Olympics approaching in a year, there are concerns of an impending lodging crisis in Gangwon. In the case of Gangneung, the host city for the ice sports events, construction for hotels, condos and resorts has not begun in half of the six locations planned.

“When progressing hastily, plans and construction issues can crop up,” said Kang Seong-il, a staff member of the Gangneung Olympic Urban Restoration Division. “It’s a shame [accommodations] cannot be used for the duration of the Olympics.”

Gangwon expects up to 104,610 spectators per day throughout the Olympics. Assuming 60 percent of the visitors require accommodation, and assuming that rooms are occupied by at least two people, a total of 30,000 rooms will be necessary. Presently in Gangneung, Pyeongchang and Jeongseon, where the Olympic events will be held, the total number of rooms available at hotels and condos is only 6,649.

Because of this, visitors must seek accommodation outside Olympic event cities, but cities and towns in the vicinity - Sokcho, Goseong, Yangyang, Donghae, Samcheok, Wonju and Hoengseong - are unable to cope with the expected demand, collectively amounting to only 4,229 rooms.

There are another 3,361 places of lodging such as motels, pensions and inns, but these are unable to provide meals. Consequently, Gangwon is proposing operating a floating hotel. Floating hotels received attention at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics for resolving the dearth of accommodations there.

Presently, one tourism agency in Seoul is proposing floating 40,000 ton cruise ships at Sokcho Port. This agency is currently inquiring overseas as to the possibility of acquiring cruise ships with 700 rooms for 1,500 people and 500 seats for dining. The room and board will be 100,000 to 200,000 won. By doing so, the lodging crisis will be resolved and a further proposal for attracting a total of 30,000 tourists from China, Japan and Russia to visit Korea by boat is in the works.

Cruise ships from Vladivostok, Russia, and Kanazawa, Japan, are planned to harbor at Sokcho Port for five days and four nights during the Olympics at Pyeongchang. There will be a six-day and five-night schedule from Shanghai, as well.

“Anchoring cruise ships will not just play a part in guaranteeing accommodations for the duration of the Olympics,” said Choi Moon-soon, the governor of Gangwon. “I also hope they will become a new tourism resource for this province even afterwards.”

BY PARK JIN-HO [hwang.hosub@joongang.co.kr]