It has a notorious reputation as the most secretive state in the world under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-Un.
But now leisure trips to see the isolated communist country of North Korea are being promoted at World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry.
If you want to run in the Pyongyang Marathon next April, ski on North Korea’s uncrowded mountain slopes, or visit ancient temples, then Experience North Korea has the holiday for you.
Founded three years ago, Experience North Korea works with travel agencies and tour operators around the world to offer North Korean tours.
Shanghai-based Nathalie Armengol, Managing Partner of Experience North Korea, will be exhibiting at WTM in November to meet travel buyers from across the globe to consolidate the firm’s pioneering position in the market and challenge perceptions about the country.
She first visited North Korea as a tourist herself, following a friend’s recommendation.
“We have to admit we were a little bit hesitant at first, but we were blown away,” she said.
“We always joke and say that going to North Korea is like going to another planet. So, effectively, it’s the cheapest trip to outer space you can buy.”
She ran in the 2014 Pyongyang marathon, describing it as “the closest I’ll ever get to participating in the Olympics”, as the event included an opening and closing ceremony in a stadium filled with thousands of cheering North Koreans.
Now the firm has the distinction of being the first North Korean specialist to exhibit at WTM, which last year facilitated business deals worth more than £2.2 billion – with Asian exhibitors benefiting from £264 million of business.
Armengol aims to show WTM delegates how travel to North Korea is safe and “very straightforward” – and can be bought by any individual of any nationality, including Americans.
“Images promoted by Western media are not always accurate and are always negative,” she said.
“We can take you there, so that you can form your own opinion: see it for yourself.
“We are very experienced in the B2B sector and understand the needs of the trade.”
Fewer than 5,000 foreigners enter North Korea each year but the country is opening up to more visitors, and promoting travel in different sectors, such as skiing and surfing.
All of Experience North Korea’s trips begin and end in Beijing, where customers obtain their visas, and then flights to Pyongyang are with Air Koryo or Air China.
Other travellers can arrive on flights from Vladivostok and Shenyang, and there are talks about services from cities such as Shanghai.
However, the visa requirements mean Experience North Korea’s customers depart from Beijing, where it has a second office.
World Travel Market, Senior Exhibition Director, Simon Press said: “I am delighted to welcome Experience North Korea to World Travel Market as our first tour operator specialising solely in this enigmatic destination.
“It’s great to see a spotlight turned on tourism in North Korea, as our industry can bring huge benefits.
“I am confident that WTM will help Experience North Korea with its pioneering plans, and ensure plenty of business deals are signed, which will increase the country’s exposure and the number of visitors to possibly the world’s most isolated country.”
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About World Travel Market
World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.
More than 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.
03WTM, now in its 35th year, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals.
WTM 2013 generated more than £2 billion of travel industry contracts, revealed independent research by Fusion Communications.
WTM is owned by the world’s leading events organiser Reed Exhibitions (RE), which organises a other portfolio’s of travel industry events including IBTM Events, the world’s leading showcases for the meetings and events industry and International Luxury Travel Market events.
In 2013, RE held more than 500 events in 40 countries bringing together more than six million people from around the world generating billions of dollars in business.
Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) is the world’s leading provider of exhibitions in the travel and tourism industry, with a wide-ranging portfolio of 21 international events in 14 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa.
Its market-leading, business-to-business events cover all elements of travel and tourism, including leisure travel, luxury travel, meetings, events, incentives and business travel, as well as golf, ski and spa travel.
RTE is part of Reed Exhibitions.