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Department stores boost marketing to attract Chinese tourists

   South Korean department stores are beefing up marketing efforts to attract Chinese tourists ahead of the International Workers' Day holiday, industry sources said Sunday.

   Retail industry insiders said stores are moving to accept the Alipay payment system and scrambling to lure big-spender VIP customers. Alipay is China's largest payment system and makes use of specialized apps to conduct transactions. It has some 800 million users with annual payment hitting some 450 trillion won (US$417 billion).

   China celebrates May Day from April 30 through May 4th, with a large number of people to use the break to go abroad.

   Lotte Department Store, the country's largest luxury retailer, said seven of its stores including its main downtown store and several of its outlets, most frequented by Chinese nationals, will be accepting Alipay.

   It said as part of its efforts to gain more exposure, it has introduced its main store on Chinese TV last week and has started advertising its brand through micro-blogging service Weibo.

   The retailer added it will give special coupon books to people who book rooms at its affiliated hotels and guest houses in the Myeongdong district of downtown Seoul.

   "We expect influx of Chinese tourists to spike by some 30 percent, so every effort will be made to make shopping easier for visitors," a marketing executive for Lotte said.

   Hyundai Department Store another premium retailer, with outlets in southern Seoul said it will host its "Welcome Again" program, which caters specifically to VIP customers.

   Chinese nationals who are silver, gold or diamond customers will be eligible for various privileges including call taxi service and use of lounges located in department stores. The company's customer rating is based on past purchases.

   It said Chinese tourists who bring special coupons listed on Weibo or local travel portal Hanchao will get discounts if they order food at food courts operated by its department stores, as well as get maps of all the most popular restaurants in the Gangnam region of the capital city.

   A representative said the store aims to use the latest event to encourage Chinese visitors to come back to South Korea in the future by providing services on par with what it gives to South Korean patrons. (Yonhap)