Kangwon Land opened its first overseas office in Singapore as part of a push to diversify its operation into non-casino areas such as tourism in the Asian market.
The casino operator plans to attract Asian tourists with Singapore as its center of operation focused on such countries as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The casino and resort operator already conducted a number of events in Singapore and Hong Kong last year to promote tourism for its gaming resorts, which saw tourists from both cities rise dramatically. Those form Hong Kong rose 100 percent, while those from Singapore increased by around 50 percent year-over-year last year.
Foreign skiers who came to the High One Ski Slope totaled around 70,000 last year, up from 45,000 in 2015, with the resort going to strengthen the ski slope operation, boosting both domestic and overseas skiers. Efforts are focused on S.E. Asian countries, the Americas and Europe, where skiing is popular. The resort is hopeful that its water park slated to open next year would also be able to turn in profits soon enough.
With the change in the resort’s operation plan, early results have demonstrated that the plan works. Sale at the casino rose to 29.1 billion won the first quarter this year, up 3.7 percent YoY, while the admission charges at the ski hills also jumped 5 percent in the quarter. Those at the hotel and condos expanded 4.4 and 2.2 percent, respectively.
With earnings from the ski slope taking up some 43 percent of non-casino earnings, the resort plans to boost its marketing programs for foreign skiers, especially those form S.E. Asian countries.
The number of visitors to hotels and condos have been rising steadily, although those for the casinos have been falling, an analyst at Korea Investment and Securities Co. said.
Gangwon Land Casino is Korea’s first ever casino to allow the admission of Koreans. It was established under the “Special law regarding support for the development of abandoned mine areas,” which was passed in 1995 with the purpose of resuscitating the economy of such downtrodden areas.
Gangwon Land is a hotel resort with 199 rooms at present, priding over its superior casino facilities with 960 slot machines and 100 tables. Gangwon Land Casino has skilled dealers and serves free beverages to players. Kangwon Land offers more than gambling. It also operates two hotels, a condominium, an 18-slope ski resort, a golf course and a convention venue. A water park will be added by 2015.
Nonetheless, the casino generates about 95 percent of total revenues. Sales shot up nearly 14-fold to around 1.27 trillion won ($1.13 billion) last year from 91 billion won in 2001. The number of guests rocketed to 4.5 million from less than 210,000 over the same period. Kangwon Land maintains a monopoly for Koreans under a special law. Majority-owned by the government, the company transfers more than 10 percent of its revenues to the public coffers through taxes and a tourism fund.
With its business flourishing, the firm’s exclusive casino operation rights were at the center of a debate last year over whether to allow locals onto 17 other gambling floors across the country.
Sheldon Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands has been keen on Korea’s 1 trillion won and growing casino market, calling on authorities to open the door to local gamblers and foreign investors. Former Culture Minister Choung Byoung-gug was also pushing to deregulate some casinos in the country’s free economic zones and on Jeju Island.
In a bid to shake off the heavy reliance on the casino and put the local economy back on its feet, Choi formulated a long-term growth framework for Kangwon Land and the four mining towns — Jeongsun, Taebaek, Donghae and Samcheok.
Under its 2020 vision, the company aims to jack up the number of annual visitors to 10 million, unearth new business areas such as a theme park, shopping and exhibitions, and improve living conditions and infrastructure in the area. It allocated almost 550 billion won to boost tourism and spur the industrial development by installing entertainment, leisure and cultural facilities in surrounding locales.