|An aerial view of Busan's Marine City and Haeundae Beach / Gettyimagesbank|
City gov't working with card firm for tourism infrastructure
By Kim Bo-eun
Korea's second-largest city, Busan, is in talks with China's tech giant Tencent over the development of mobile applications for foreigners that could possibly facilitate payments by tourists there.
The local government, which has already joined hands with Hana Card, one of the country's leading card issuers, plans to promote its goal of becoming Asia's fintech center, by teaming up with the two companies. Tencent provides various financial services via its in-house WeChat mobile application platform.
Two applications will be developed under the collaboration, one providing comprehensive tourism information for foreigners based on their card payment data, and another that will enable payments via existing systems used by foreigners.
The project is also expected to offer business opportunities for fintech firms based in the port city. The Busan International Finance Center (BIFC) houses a center for fintech startups.
In the short term, the project aims to offer a payment infrastructure for foreigners, and in the long term it would serve as an opportunity for Busan to accumulate big data on tourists to provide customized services for them. The trilateral partnership would serve as a new model as lines are blurring between finance and technology, providing fresh impetus for both banking and tech industries which want to cut their heavy dependency on legacy business models.
"We plan to set up the infrastructure by the first half of next year, at the earliest," a Busan government official said. "Foreign tourists have been unable to visit due to COVID-19, but we are preparing with the aim to have the infrastructure ready when travel opens up again. This is also a means to revive the local economy, which has taken a toll due to the coronavirus, and foster fintech firms."
Busan is a popular tourist destination for foreigners, given its famous beaches and historical sites. It is the country's third-most-visited area by inbound tourists, following Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
The official said the government is in the process of finalizing terms with Tencent.
Busan has been striving to boost its competitiveness as a financial hub, after the government designated the city as the country's second financial center after Seoul. Busan has a focus on maritime finance.
A number of state-run institutions relocated to the city, including the Korea Exchange, Korea Technology Finance Corp., Korea Asset Management Corp. and Korea Securities Depository.
The city government has recently been striving to attract foreign financial institutions possibly leaving Hong Kong amid the unrest there. Busan is offering such firms rent-free offices for 25 years at the BIFC, along with corporate and income tax incentives.
Busan ranked 51st out of 108 cities in a financial center competitiveness index published by the London-based think tank Z/Yen this year.