Culture, tradition and experience at Incheon Airport

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

At last week’s Trinity Forum in Seoul, Incheon International Airport Corporation President & CEO CW Lee jokingly implored all delegates to buy in his shops on their way home.  To laughter, he noted during the Opening Cocktail that all delegates’ names were known and that he would be checking to see who had bought duty free.

How could you not buy at this amazing airport? Besides a strong traditional duty free offer and a diverse range of luxury boutiques, it also boasts what I consider one of the best specialist outlets in the airport world – the Korean Cultural Traditional Experience Center.

It’s a long name but one that perfectly encapsulates the proposition – a blend of culture, tradition and consumer experience. It’s beautifully laid out with some of the most beautiful destination merchandise I have ever seen at an airport. 

Ten minutes in this wonderful outlet was enough to ensure that not only did I fulfill Mr Lee’s wish but that I actually drove up his average transaction value. Seldom have I felt as good about spending a lot of money.

And it’s not just about shopping. Visitors can learn how to make traditional crafts such as fans, bags, and pencil cases from the resident faculty members of the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation. They can also enjoy traditional performances including masque dances and twelve-stringed Korean gayageum recitals on stage.

When I last visited Incheon in September 2011 for the Louis Vuitton opening, I experienced one of these performances (see video). It was magical and a marvellous antidote to the hustle and bustle of an airport teeming with passengers.


Sense of Place is a great notion, and one I think that should be mandatory to every airport and every retail and food & beverage proposition within an airport. I can think of few locations that carry it off as well as Incheon.

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  • I must admit that the airport was an unbelievable experience for all of us who returned from Korea. The hospitality and welcome provided by Mr Lee was truly memorable.
    It was equally unfortunate that most of the flights that fly at midnight (and most to the Middle East do) and beyond were not able to take advantage of Mr Lee’s request of experienceing shopping at Incheon Airport as all the shops barring some of the P&C offers were closed. Imagine what Incheon could do if they manage to keep the stores open like most other airports and have a 24 hr operation!!
    I hope Mr Lee takes this constructive comment and extends the shopping hours at his airport the next time I fly in there.