World's largest duty-free complex opens in Hainan

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A vendor (left) introduces luxury footwear to a consumer at the Haikou International Duty Free City Shopping Complex, which opened on Friday. [Su Bikun/for China Daily]

Thousands of people waited in line for hours until 10:30 am Friday for the grand opening of the Haikou International Duty Free City Shopping Complex — the world's largest stand-alone duty-free facility.

Located near the key transportation hub of Haikou along the northern coast of the island province of Hainan, the shopping mecca covers an area of 280,000 square meters and features more than 800 notable brands, including five global firsts and more than 50 stores with the world's latest concept designs.

"This is another signature event in the construction of Hainan free trade port," said Feng Fei, governor of Hainan province, at the shopping complex's opening ceremony. "Offshore duty-free shopping has become one of the great namecards of Hainan's tourism sector."

Last year, about one in two travelers to the tropical island visited duty-free shops and one in six purchased offshore duty-free goods. In 2021, duty-free sales in Hainan accounted for about half of the province's tourism revenue, Feng said.

In addition, duty-free imports accounted for about one-third of the province's total traded goods, and sales took up a quarter of the total retail sales of consumer goods in Hainan, he added.

"The shopping complex will provide new and diverse tourism and shopping experiences for consumers. It is expected to attract overseas consumption to return and contribute to building Hainan into an international tourism consumption center," said Meng Li, general manager of the duty-free complex.

The shopping complex is just one zone of the Haikou International Duty Free City project, which comprises about 930,000 sq m. The project has six plots dedicated to duty-free businesses, high-end offices and hotels as well as talent communities.

"China has become a very important global travel destination for the retail sector. Many companies consider China to be among the most important markets or even the No 1 market," said Olivier Salmon, vice-president of Parfums Christian Dior Travel Retail China & Japan, who attended the opening ceremony. "I think Chinese customers are very open-minded in discovering new products, quality luxury and fashion trends."

Salmon said he has a lot of confidence in China and Hainan province's consumer market. "Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hainan has grown into an attractive shopping destination for domestic consumers. With the development direction to create something unique in Hainan as a free-trade port, it will bring more opportunities," he said.

Chen Lin, 37, from Jinan, Shandong province, was visiting Hainan with her family and found herself attracted to all the shopping options.

"The newly opened complex provides adequate stocks of Kweichow Moutai and Apple's latest products. What's more, like us, tourists can purchase duty-free goods at good prices. With convenience and favorable policy, an increasing number of customers from outside Hainan will be attracted to come here," Chen said.

Currently, the annual tax-free shopping quota in Hainan is 100,000 yuan ($13,784) per person. There are 45 categories of duty-free goods and the province is now home to 11 duty-free shops.

The sprawling complex brings local cultural forces to the fore. The facility's architectural shape is based on the begonia flower and incorporates elements such as Haikou's natural characteristics and marine culture.

Han Yamei, 48, a local, visited the shopping complex and was amazed by its numerous brands and creative design. She couldn't help asking her daughter to take photos of her.

Han said the opening will not only bring shoppers a beautiful experience, but also give a boost to the local economy, adding that, "It's located next to Xinhai Port, which is very convenient for visitors by ship to come and shop."

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