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Duty-free sales surge by 50% on-year in April

Passengers walk through Incheon Airport. (Yonhap)
Passengers walk through Incheon Airport. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s duty-free industry in April marked its steepest expansion in three years, signaling a gradual recovery toward pre-coronavirus levels, government data showed Tuesday.

According to Korean Statistical Information Service, the duty-free sales index climbed 51.6 percent on-year in April, marking the steepest growth since the 54.6 percent observed in May 2018. The given indicator comprises the combined monthly sales of all duty-free shops here.

Sales for shoes and bags skyrocketed by 108 percent, while cosmetics followed with 37.9 percent.

Revenues also improved visibly during the given period. April duty-free sales revenue recorded 1.56 trillion won ($1.4 billion), hitting the highest level since 2.25 trillion won observed in January last year, according to the Korea Duty Free Shops Association.

“Statistics point to a slight recovery in duty-free shopping, but it is still premature to presume a 100 percent recovery due to persisting restrictions in inbound and outbound tourism,” said an official of the KSIS.

Also, the latest figure is largely due to the base effect from last year, when the world was hit by the first round of pandemic, the official added.

“Further signs of recovery will follow once governments ease restrictions for vaccinated people to travel abroad.”

Meanwhile, the Korean government has recently extended the COVID-19 Travel Advisory to 182 countries for the fifth time until June 15, amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

By Byun Hye-Jin (