South Korea’s Jeju Island has been a major staple for Chinese tourists in the past few years. It’s easily accessible from major Chinese metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai and, perhaps more importantly, it is the one area of South Korea that Chinese tourists can enter without a visa. Unsurprisingly, when the Chinese banned the sale of group packages to South Korea because of the THAAD dispute, Jeju was hit hard. While South Korea as a whole has seen a steady recovery of Chinese tourism, Jeju has been less fortunate and continues to attract only a fraction of the Chinese tourists it used to. However, the one major business that has been able to buck the overall trend has been the newly built Jeju Shinwha World gambling resort, even as other Jeju casinos flounder.
Construction started in 2014 and the casino opened in February. Since its opening, Jeju Shinwha World has pulled in around $326.7 million (369.4 billion Korean won). In comparison, the other eight casinos on Jeju pulled in a total of $120.8 million in revenue combined.
The Shinwha World has succeeded for a variety of reasons, even as Jeju and its other casinos struggle. In particular, only 50 percent of the casino’s customers are from mainland China. The other half come from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, according to the casino’s Vice President of Marketing Serena Eng. To cater to these guests, the casino has actively sought staff that can speak Cantonese or Taiwanese Mandarin.
One potential source of success is that the Shinwha World devotes half of its 165 gaming tables to VIP gamblers, and the casino takes in 80 percent of its revenue from the top 5 percent of spenders. According to representatives at the casino, most other casinos only devote 15 percent of their tables to VIPs, meaning that they depend more on maintaining a high volume of visitors.
The casino caters to VIPs by offering free flights and hotel rooms at the resort.
In short, the Shinwha World appears to be succeeding because of its reliance on a wider variety of source markets and targeted marketing to a demographic of travelers that aren’t traveling to Korea with tour groups. It’s a strategy that South Korea as a whole will likely need to implement going forward to reduce the risk associated with a sudden drop in Chinese arrivals.