Sheraton Incheon Hotel in the emerging hub of New Songdo City has positioned itself as Korea’s “first non-smoking hotel”, and promises to stick to the policy even if it may mean some loss in business.
“We are making a statement,” hotel general manager Alain L Rigodin explained to Business Traveller, adding that the initiative was influenced by the culture of owning company Kumho Asiana Group as well as Songdo’s ambition to be a “Green City”.
Kumho Asiana has promoted clean air in its affiliated companies (including Asiana Airlines and Air Busan) since 1986, while Songdo, part of the Incheon Free Economic Zone, has been designed along efficient and environment friendly principles.
Rigodin expressed confidence the market would recognise their efforts. “This (smoking ban) will be one of our strengths,” he said. “And we will be sure to inform guests in advance when they book.”
Rigodin may have changing customer trends on his side. In recently years, South Korea has been praised by the World Health Organization for achieving one of the most dramatic drops in smoking rates. Currently, only about four out of 10 Korean males smoke as compared with the figure before the year 2000 when eight out of 10 Korean males lit up.
Once the new Incheon Bridge is operational in October, travel from Incheon International Airport to the Sheraton will take only 30 minutes. Important features of the hotel include the chain’s trademark networking space Link@Sheraton, making its debut in Korea; a 24-hour gym offering workout programme for corporates; and the Sweet Sleeper Bed in the guestrooms.
The Songdo International Business District, where the Sheraton is located, will eventually comprise a convention centre, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course, Northeast Asia Trade Tower, First World Towers and green spaces modelled after New York’s Central Park among others.
The Sheraton has not been the only hotel to open in Songdo recently. Best Western Premier Songdo Park Hotel and Benikea Premier Sondo Metro Hotel are also now open for business.
Margie T Logarta