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South Korea – Paradise City opens in South Korea amid Chinese travel ban

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South Korean casino operator Paradise Co and Japan’s pachinko specialist Sega Sammy have now cut the ribbon on Paradise City, the first integrated resort in Northeast Asia, which has opened at Yeongjong Island close to Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

The foreigner-only casino has debuted with 154 game tables, 281 slot machines and 62 electronic gaming terminals. Its opening comes at a difficult time with China, which accounted for just under half of South Korea’s 17.2m foreign visitors last year, imposing a travel ban on its citizens travelling to Korea in groups although individuals will still be able to travel. That political fallout has followed the positioning of a US-supplied missile system on South Korean soil, put in place to counter North Korea’s missiles. Known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), its timing could not have been worse for the casino’s debut.

Paradise Co, which operates another five foreigner-only casinos in South Korea, said of the travel ban: “There are concerns about the Chinese market but we don’t expect the missile issue to continue in the long term.”

Paradise Group Chairman Chun Phil-lip said the plan was to attract tourists from other parts of Asia.
Mr Chun said: “Tensions over THAAD will not be eased in the short term. We are approaching this matter with a conservative perspective. We have been heavily relying on China but we will look at new markets, such as Japan and Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
He added: “Most of our customers individually visit Korea, so they are actually not influenced by the travel ban of the Chinese government. But we will deal with the issue in a conservative way, and we hope more Chinese customers return to Korea during next year’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics. We are considering cooperating with the Korean Olympic Committee to accommodate VIPs who visit Korea during the Winter Games. We want to show the Korean wave to foreigners and let them know Korea also has an integrated resort.”

The r330,000 sq m resort is believed to have cost upwards of US$1.1bn and includes a Y-shaped hotel with 711 rooms, a casino, an exhibition hall and one of Korea’s largest grand ballrooms. It has been named as an ‘art-tainment resort’ with over 2,700 art pieces.

The aim is for the resort to become the top landmark attraction in South Korea attracting 1.5m tourists a year.

Analyst Yoo Seung-man at HMC Investment & Securities, said: “It’s a pity that, because of the missile issue, there might be fewer Chinese mass customers at first than expected. But it’s Northeast Asia’s first such resort so it could draw customers that wouldn’t otherwise visit South Korea.”

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