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Volume 24 No. 179
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Visa Pins Down Luxury For Its ‘Everywhere Lounge’

Luxury hotels suitable for elite hospitality are in short supply at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but the best-known Olympic sponsor was able to snag one of the few gems in the coastal city of Gangneung: The Seamarq.

Visa is based at the towering complex, situated on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the east and the city to the south and west. It offers spectacular views from all angles, and welcomes guests with a wide-open lobby, with 30-foot-high ceilings and minimalist white flooring and blond wood that evokes a mix of Roman halls of power and comfort.

Visa’s wearable pin payment system for the Games
Photo: courtesy of visa

On Thursday, I went to its lower-level club room to catch the opening party for the “Visa Everywhere Lounge,” where Visa had erected a showcase of the new forms of payments it’s pushing in its Winter Olympics campaign: Thin winter gloves with a slit on the back of the hand to insert a payment chip, contactless payment cards and Olympic pins that also trigger payments.

Elsewhere, the lounge displayed every torch from the Games that Visa has participated in, dating back to the 1988 Seoul Games, and images of legendary Team Visa athletes. Despite the splendor of the hotel, the branded lounge itself was small and modestly outfitted compared to Visa’s guest lounge and showcase in Copacabana Beach at the 2016 Rio Games, a reflection of the subdued corporate interest in Pyeongchang.

I was hosted by Iain Jamieson, Visa’s country manager for Korea and Mongolia, and Fernando de Matos, head of sponsorships for the Asia and Pacific region. But I also caught up with Kate Gordon, the San Francisco-based senior director of Olympic sponsorship marketing.