Suncheon Garden Expo a rare money-maker

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Suncheon Garden Expo a rare money-maker

Suncheon’s garden expo, which finished its six-month run on Sunday, ended with two big differences from most local festivals - it was popular and it made money.

The Suncheon Bay Garden Exposition 2013, held in the city of Suncheon, on the southern coast of South Jeolla, lured in a total of 4.4 million visitors, beating the city’s target of 4 million.

In addition, the festival took in 39.1 billion won ($36.8 million) in ticket sales. After taking into account the festival’s expenses, the city turned a profit of about 16.4 billion won.

Festivals organized by local governments are often blamed for siphoning money and creating red tape, while offering just lackluster exhibitions.

Poor exhibitions then often lead local authorities to give away thousands of tickets, desperately trying to boost attendance.

But Suncheon said it restricted government officials from giving away free tickets because it feared the practice would hurt the expo’s reputation.

“We monitored the ticketing system closely so that tickets are not given out for free,” said Na Seung-byung, a director of the festival’s organizing committee. “Even some officials had to pay for their ticket.”

The vast majority of the visitors, 87.7 percent, paid admission to enter the event, a stark contrast to Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, where just 50 percent of attendees purchased their tickets.

Many observers said that the horticultural event was a good fit for modern society, as stressed-out people desire the chance to appreciate nature. With 87 gardens located on a sprawling 1.1 million square meters (271.8 square acres) of land near Suncheon Bay, the expo hit the sweet spot.

But what distinguished the festival the most was its cost-efficient approach.

For example, the city government minimized costs by using trees that were initially planted more than 20 years ago alongside the 88 Olympic Expressway. Those trees had been at risk of being cut down two years ago when expansion began on the freeway.

An official from the Suncheon District Office was tipped off about the construction and managed to secure the trees, adding them to the garden exhibition. Those relocated trees ended up saving Suncheon city some 10 billion won.

The Suncheon organizers also tapped into plants used in last year’s Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, held in the nearby city of Yeosu.

Reusing some of the basic products from the Yeosu event - such as chairs, raincoats and clothes for volunteers - saved Suncheon another 1.6 billion won.

Suncheon has yet to make a definitive decision over how it will use the festival’s location in the future, but the city has said that it plans to preserve the site as an eco-museum and avoid altering much of the area.

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