China visitor numbers up in 2019
According to the data jointly compiled by the state-run Korea Tourism Organization and Shinhan Financial Investment, the number of Chinese travelers in November surged 30.3 percent to some 426,800. A considerable number of these travelers were vendors who purchase Korean duty-free goods in bulk and sell them back at home, they said.
The brokerage expected the number of Chinese visitors in 2019 to increase 25.3 percent to 6.0 million in total, compared with last year’s 4.8 million. The figure is set to reach 7.1 million in 2020.
“The duty-free stores have logged steady sales in both the third and fourth quarters, with more room for further growth,” Seong Joon-won, an analyst at Shinhan Financial Investment, said.
“If we continue to see an increasing number of Chinese visitors during the rest of the year and in 2020, we will be able to notch up the valuation for the duty-free stores,” he added.
For the three months ending Sept. 30, Lotte Shopping swung to a net profit of 208.04 billion won ($186 million) from a net loss of 532.96 billion won a year earlier, buoyed by its robust duty-free business.
Over the same period, Hotel Shilla’s sales rose 21 percent.
Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agreed to speed up talks on supplementing their bilateral free trade agreement to expand the scope of their trade.
The move raised hopes for larger inflow of Chinese shoppers to Korea, projecting years of efforts to repair their bilateral relations that were badly frayed by the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system in Korea.