Businesses anticipate boost from pope’s visit

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Businesses anticipate boost from pope’s visit

With Pope Francis arriving in Korea today, businesses are looking forward to the so-called pope effect on the domestic economy, as more than 100,000 people from around the world including tourists, Catholics and foreign press will gather to see him.

Whatever cars and telecommunication devices the pope will use and the food he will eat will likely draw attention worldwide, and local companies are preparing to piggyback on the promotional effects.

Last year, the pope’s election brought as much as 55 million euros ($73.4 million) to the economy of Vatican City, where more than one million people flocked to catch a glimpse of the new pontiff, according to foreign media at the time.

Around Vatican City in Rome, restaurants and hotels were packed, which prompted an increase of about 10 percent in hotel hiring when the country’s unemployment rate was at its highest in 20 years.

“If the products that the pope uses and the places he visits lead to a boost in consumer sentiment, the recession-hit domestic economy could be revived,” said a researcher at an economic research institute.

About 95 percent of rooms at hotels around Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, where the beatification Mass will be held, were reserved in advance for Pope Francis’s five-day visit.

“Rooms with a view of Gwanghwamun Square were already fully booked for early August,” said a spokesman for the Plaza Hotel in Gwanghwamun.

Other nearby hotels such as the Westin Chosun Hotel and Lotte Hotel, which will be the press center for the pope’s visit, have few rooms available.

And stamps and coins that were released earlier this month to commemorate the pope’s visit are selling like hotcakes. According to the Korea Post, more than 740,000 stamps out of the 1.3 million that were printed have been sold as of early August.

In just two days of advanced sales, 25,000 commemorative coins issued by the financial authorities were sold.

Kia Motors’ compact crossover utility vehicle Soul, which the pope will ride in during his visit, will likely see benefits from the promotion. The Soul is classified as a small or semi-medium car and has a 1,600cc engine.

Although Kia declined to comment on how it will cash in on the pope’s visit or if it has plans for promotions regarding the pope, industry observers expect that the vehicle’s use as the popemobile will have a worldwide marketing impact.

Samsung Group chose “leadership of the pope” as the theme of its weekly CEO meeting held yesterday for the first time in two weeks since the executives took a two-week summer vacation. According to Samsung, Cha Dong-yeop, a Catholic priest and professor at the Catholic University of Incheon, gave a lecture to the CEOs.

Retail companies are also taking advantage of Pope Francis’s trip. Lotte Liquor began selling a special package of Majuang, which is the official altar wine of Korean Catholics and was also used as the official altar wine when Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984.

BY kim jung-yoon []

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