Lodging crisis casts shadow over PyeongChang

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Lodging crisis casts shadow over PyeongChang

The PyeongChang Winter Olympics are now only three months away, but with foreign investors pulling out, visitors may find themselves without a place to stay.

In 2015, the city of Gangneung in Gangwon Province announced plans for a tourism resort named China Dream City. The project was authorized to begin construction in June of last year and Shang Chao Holdings, a Chinese company, was expected to invest 487.3 billion won ($430 million) in 500,000 square meters (125 acres) of land.

Under the plan, 214 hotel rooms and 734 condo rooms were to be built by the end of this year, but after the government’s decision to deploy the anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in July, Chinese investors pulled out. Now there is no trace of construction at the site. In addition, six large hotels and resorts under development in Gangreung have yet to start construction.

“Construction was delayed because we were trying to take extra precautions against problems that can arise through rushed planning and construction,” said Kang Sung-il, a team manager in charge of the Olympic Urban Restoration division.

Gangwon Province is expecting up to 100,000 daily spectators for the Games. If 60 percent decide to find lodging, the city needs about 30,000 rooms, but Gangneung, Pyeongchang and Jeongseon counties only have 6,649 rooms total. Cities and counties in a 90-kilometer (56-mile) radius - such as Sokcho, Goseong, Yangyang, Donghae, Samcheok, Wonju and Hwaseong - only have 4,229 rooms total. In addition, there are 3,361 rooms at motels, inns and private residences, bringing the total to 14,239.

Gangwon Province officials are considering using cruise ships as another source of accommodation, as they were successfully used to provide lodging at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

One travel agency in Seoul is proposing to place a 40,000-ton cruise ship in Sokcho that can accommodate 1,500 people with 700 staterooms.

The agency plans to charge 100,000 to 200,000 won per person. Gangwon is also encouraging people coming from China, Japan and Russia to take cruise ships.

Ships coming from Vladivostok, Russia, and Kanazawa, Japan, are planned to stop by Gangwon for five days, while ships from Shanghai will stop for six days. Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon has said he hopes these “floating hotels” will “not only play a major role in securing accommodation for spectators during the PyeongChang Olympics, but also bring new tourists to the area after the Games.”

BY PARK JIN-HO [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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