SEOUL: Shoppers from overseas powered a rebound in duty-free sales last month, data showed Monday, indicating that big-spending Chinese tourists are returning to Korea after a drop in their numbers last year.
According to data from the Korea Duty Free Association, duty-free stores recorded sales of $822.7 million in March, up nearly 15 percent from the same month last year, reports the Korea Herald.
The bulk of those sales came from 1.6 million foreign shoppers, who spent approximately $610 million, up 21.6 percent from March last year. Duty-free sales to foreigners was the highest in the past twelve months, higher even than sales before the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak struck a blow to inbound tourism last year.
The boost in foreign shoppers is helped by the aggressive marketing carried out by the government’s tourism organization, airlines and duty-free shops, which lure in large numbers of Chinese shoppers on incentive trips.
In March, Chinese beauty company Aurance Group brought 6,000 employees and travelers to Korea on an incentive trip.
This growth is expected to continue throughout the first half of 2016.
According to Korean carrier Asiana Airlines, a group of 8,000 employees and travelers with Chinese health care company Zhongmai Group will visit Seoul from May 4 to 13. The airline will carry three quarters of that group to Incheon from 11 cities in Beijing for a series of five-day stays. The air carrier plans to operate larger planes to accommodate the large numbers.
Meanwhile, Lotte Duty Free, a major duty-free chain here, said it has agreed with travel agencies overseas to bring in 40,000 tourists from Asia to its stores between April and June. Three-quarters of these tourists will be from China. “Chinese tourists now make up about 70 percent of our sales,” a spokesperson from Lotte Duty Free told The Korea Herald, noting that the duty-free chain’s sales have been consistently rising over the past few months.
“This year, we’re expecting more Chinese tourists to continue coming and shopping here.”