Back To Top

‘Hocance’ boom spurs trade of secondhand hotel amenities

Free gifts at hotels likely to disappear this year under regulations on disposable packaging

Bath amenities offered at Lotte Hotel Seoul (Lotte Hotel)
Bath amenities offered at Lotte Hotel Seoul (Lotte Hotel)
With overseas travel virtually decimated by the pandemic, many Koreans are choosing to splurge on a one or two- night staycation at a luxury hotel. While trying to enjoy their hotel experiences to the fullest, from complimentary drinks at a lounge to access to an indoor pool or gym, some are even trying to recoup part of their spending by re-selling bathroom amenities. 

Yoon, a 33-year-old office worker in Seoul, recently spent a night at Josun Palace, a newly-opened, top-notch hotel in Seoul’s Gangnam area. The first thing she did after getting into her room, which costs between 330,000 won ($275) to over 500,000 won ($420) a night, was to find six miniature bottles with the logo of European luxury brand Byredo. 

“I stuffed the goods in a separate bag to keep them neat and clean so that (prospective buyers) wouldn’t think they were used,” she said. 

Yoon’s souvenir package from Josun Palace, comprised of hair shampoo, hair conditioner, face wash, body wash, body lotion, each weighing 40 ml, and a soap bar, was sold at 30,000 won on an online secondhand market Joonggonara.

A screenshot of postings on Joonggonara selling bath products from luxury cosmetic brands which were provided free of charge for guests. (Joonggonara)
A screenshot of postings on Joonggonara selling bath products from luxury cosmetic brands which were provided free of charge for guests. (Joonggonara)
“A 225ml of Byredo body lotion is being sold between 70,000-80,000 won at local department stores, so it was a real bargain,” she said. 

A quick search of popular secondhand marketplace platforms show that Yoon is not alone in trading hotel freebies. 

The number of postings on Joonggonara selling skin care amenities from hotels sharply rose from 550 in 2019 to 950 in 2021, data showed.

Lim, a 28-year-old office worker in Daegu, also recently tried out reselling hotel bath amenities from her frequent business trips to Jeju. 

“I travel to Jeju on business five to six times a year. Since I stay alone at a hotel, I can’t use up all the skin care products offered for free. Seeing a lot of leftover lotion and shampoo, I think it’d better to sell those high-end items online,” she said. 

Some hotels have taken action to limit the giveaways. 

The Sol Beach Hotels and Resorts in Gangwon Province and South Jeolla Province, for example, do not give out another set of bath amenities from beauty-products maker Aveda for guests staying two nights in a row, the chain said. 

“As for guests staying two days straight, we don’t replace the products with new ones the second day because the first set is enough to last for two days and some people take them out to sell online,” an official at the hotel chain said.

The reselling trend comes with the rising popularity of “hocances” in recent years. Combining the English word “hotel” and the French word for “vacation” (“vacance”), it is a Korean neologism referring to vacationing mostly indoors at a hotel, within the same or a different city. 

According to Good Choice, a local accommodation and flight-booking application operated by Withinnovation, the transaction value of hotel reservations last year surged 25 percent from a year earlier. 

Luxury gifts from hotels, however, may no longer be available in the coming months, as hotels come under growing pressure to reduce the use of disposables. 

The Ministry of Environment has advised hotels with 50 or more rooms not to offer bath products with plastic packaging from this year, as part of a nationwide push to reduce disposables which has led to a ban on the use of paper cups, plastic straws and stirrers at cafes and other eateries. 

Restrictions on plastic usage at hotels and other types of accommodation will get legal backing from 2024, under the Ministry’s plan to revise related laws. 

Some hotels have already retired disposable amenities, but many are cautious due to the current pandemic conditions. 

Lotte Hotel, part of Lotte Group, already replaced recyclable dispensers for hair and body products on offer at its L7 and Lotte City Hotels across Seoul. 

Hotel Shilla, the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul and global hotel chain Marriott International also plan to stop offering beauty amenities with plastic packaging, officials told The Korea Herald.

Starting late February, every room of the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul will feature bath amenities from premium perfume brand Diptyque in recyclable containers, an official there said. 

Marriott International said that while it is committed to reducing plastics, it is taking caution because guests worry over potential virus transmissions via shared items. 

“The exact date for implementation of the plan hasn’t been determined, but (Marriot International) will soon begin to remove plastic products at its hotels across the globe,” an official said. 

By Choi Jae-hee (
Korea Herald Youtube