In every crisis, there is opportunity, and this cannot be truer with Gangwon. Gangwon was still little popular in spite of the fact that it rose to fame as a world-class winter destination when it hosted the Pyeong Chang 2018 Winter Olympics. It also had some challenges to deal with various global market segments. When the world came to a standstill and travel suspended by Covid 19, Gangwon quickly rose to tackle the unprecedented crisis head on, converted its lush natural and cultural resources into ‘Wellness’ tourism destination to meet the new rising demand and rebooted itself as the premium post-pandemic haven, year round, and not just a mere Winter destination anymore. However, it was not a “walk in the park,” at all, establishing wellness governance system with various public and private sector players. But with grit, determination and strong political will, the State orchestrated together with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports, multiple cities and counties, professionals and academics, the unique network entitled Gangwon Wellness Clusters. The ‘Wellever Gangwon’ brand was born, incorporating Environmental, Social and Governance principles and practices. The ‘Wellever Gangwon’ is a one-stop platform to advise the facilities to elaborate the wellness program and inspire travel agencies to design the new Wellness Experience. Furthermore, collaboration with local communities under the ‘Tourism Dure’ (Dure- means joint operation within small farming communities of Korea), a program that encouraged the residents to discover their selling propositions, local produce within and refined it as a premium cultural component. This way, they can do the business in a sustainable and independent way, which benefits both state government and host communities. Wellness product contest ‘Gangwon 5-Hyang (Fragrance) Wellness Package’ was organized to select the unique and sustainable local items across the region and was launched. The Gangwon Annual Wellness Festival was held to attract international travelers to visit Gangwon year-round, beyond the winter experience. Overall, the entire process of the Wellness branding became productive thanks to the effective planning and support from national legislation to the engagement of grassroots communities and business owners in planning and developing of the Gangwon Wellever brand. Declared only last June as the second self-governing state in the Republic of Korea, Gangwon State will continue to grow its Wellness tourism managing its natural, cultural and human resources in the most sustainable way.
Keywords: wellness, nature tourism , stakeholders engagement , governance, community, festival