Chinese tourists

Incheon plans entertainment hub to rival Macau

South Korean city moves ahead with US$290b plan to develop former small fishing island into global hub of gambling and entertainment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 7:41am

South Korea's Incheon city aims to transform a small fishing island off the country's west coast into a hub of tourism, shopping and gambling to rival Macau.

The city, 28 kilometres west of the capital Seoul, hopes to eventually attract up to US$290 billion in investments by 2030 to build casinos, hotels, car-racing tracks, a marina and K-pop concert halls in its Yongyu-Muui district.

Incheon hopes the tourism complex will lure middle- and upper-class tourists from China, who are spending more on leisure and travel, as well as tourists from neighbouring Japan.

To increase its appeal to Chinese tourists, the new island will be named "EIGHTCITY" and built in the shape of "8" after the auspicious number in China.

The 5.7 million passengers passing through Incheon International Airport every year would also be targeted, a head of the project developer said.

"It will become the world's top city that has the creativity of Dubai, convention centres and casinos of Las Vegas and Macau, as well as the shopping centres and financial hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore," said Park Seong-hyun, vice-chairman of EIGHTCITY, the project's developer.

International hotel operator Kempinski and South Korea's flag carrier Korean Air Lines are among the shareholders in the developer.

When completed, Incheon said the area would be 80 square kilometres - or three times larger than Macau.

In the early 2000s, Yongyu-Muui district was designated as a free-economic zone, along with several of Incheon's other districts, to boost foreign investment in Asia's fourth-largest economy. But the Yongyu-Muui project saw little progress partly due to the global financial crisis .

The EIGHTCITY chief said it secured US$2.8 billion from South Korean investors and US$1 billion from Britain's Sanbar Development, which would help get the project off the ground. The initial investment would be used to compensate island residents early next year. Building infrastructure and reclaiming land would cost US$27 billion more.