Hotel brands look to opportunity in South Korea

A strong recovery in visitor numbers in South Korea is boosting hotel development activity, as international brands look for opportunities to expand their business in the country

A strong rebound in the tourism sector in South Korea is encouraging more international hotel brand groups to look at developing properties in the country, and specifically to ensure they have a presence in the capital, Seoul.

The country’s foreign visitor numbers grew substantially prior to the pandemic, until they were hit first by tensions rising with China, and then by international travel restrictions. Last year saw the number rebound to 11 million arrivals, with predictions that number could rise to 20.5 million in 2025

Marriott is looking to add a second Westin branded hotel in Seoul opening in the second half of 2025, and joining its existing Westins in central Seoul and in Busan. The new hotel will be a rebrand following refurbishment of the InterContinental Hotel in Seoul. Also coming to the city are an Unbound Collection hotel from Hyatt, and a Grand Mercure hotel from French group Accor, which is expected to launch before the end of 2024.

Luxury brand Aman has also committed to opening in the city. It will launch a resort under its Janu brand, which is due to launch in 2027 on a site near Seoul station. And Rosewood Hotels & Resorts expects to open a 250 room hotel as part of the upcoming Parkside development, a mixed use neighbourhood designed by architects KPF that will feature residential, offices and retail alongside the hotel.

Elsewhere in South Korea, Singaporean hotel group Banyan is opening a hotel in Sokcho, in Gangwon Province, in summer 2024. This will operate under its Homm brand, being the seventh property globally under the new flag.

Among recent signings are the Voco Seoul Myeongdong, which will see IHG Hotels & Resorts rebrand an existing 576 room property by mid 2024. The conversion is being managed by partners Gravity Asset Management’s Seoul South Gate Hotel Operations Company, and Hotel HDC Co. This will be the second Voco branded hotel in Seoul, joining Voco Seoul Gangnam, which launched the brand in South Korea in 2022.

And Hilton’s DoubleTree brand was a new arrival in Seoul in autumn 2023, with the opening of DoubleTree Seoul Pangyo. The hybrid property includes a 432 room hotel, along with 170 residences and lays claim to being the first upscale residential hotel in Seongnam, a satellite city of Seoul.

Improving visitor numbers have also boosted local hotel groups, including Lotte Hotels & Resorts, which is back in profit after several years of losses. In 2023, the company reported sales up 20% over the previous year, at KRW1.2trn. Also enjoying the upswing have been Josun Hotels & Resorts, and Hotel Shilla, which also reported strong 2023 numbers.