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What an experience my return to Hainan for the first time in four years has turned out to be.
Having moved to The Westin Haikou after five nights at Marriott Haikou, adjacent to the sprawling Hainan International Convention and Exhibition Center, I’m enjoying a nicely chilled glass of Chilean Chardonnay on the terrace overlooking Haikou Bay with the magnificent Haikou Century Bridge lit up beautifully in the night sky.
I have been in Haikou for the third China International Consumer Products Expo (Hainan Expo), an extravaganza of a trade show on a scale that almost defies belief. Watching the crowds pour into the event in their thousands upon thousands over the final two days open to consumers, it was amazing to think just how long China, like the rest of the world, had been in the grip of the COVID-19 crisis. The country has moved on with impressive pace and Hainan is an early beneficiary.
(Not) far from the Madding Crowd at the Hainan Expo.
More of that event over ensuing days, but I have also taken the opportunity offered by my return to this beautiful island to visit several of its duty free retailers.
As noted in my last Blog, I was privileged to attend Wangfujing Duty Free’s Grand Opening of Wangfujing International Harbour City last weekend. You can read the first part of my pictorial reviews here with more to follow in coming days now that I (almost) have time to breathe.
I say ‘almost’ because it has been almost frenetically non-stop since. Talk about ‘The website that never sleeps’ – this week it has never looked like getting a single wink.
A red-letter day for Wangfujing International Harbour City
cdf Haikou International Duty Free Shopping Complex
On Thursday I visited the extraordinary cdf Haikou International Duty Free Shopping Complex in the fine company of China Duty Free Executive Vice General Manager Luke Chang and Assistant General Manager Michelle Sun.
We spent four fascinating hours touring this magnificent facility followed by an excellent Italian dinner on site at the Simona Restaurant, part of an impressively diverse dining offer that complements the vast retail programme.
It’s going to take me several reports and scores of photos to sum up an experience that stretches far beyond shopping and into heritage, entertainment, education, spectacle, dining and more. Luke and Michelle gave me not only a retail tour but a plunge into Chinese culture and the hugely ambitious ‘Shopping + Tourism + Culture’ philosophy that underpins this remarkable development. From hundreds of shots (to be shared later), I have shared a few highlights below.
Today I was able to view GDF Plaza in Mova Mall and Times DF (Shenzhen Duty-Free Group with support from DFS) at Mission Hills for the first time, both businesses opened during my COVID-enforced absence. How strange it is to have reported on both retailers’ multiple developments since their early 2021 openings and to be only now visiting them for the first time.
Again, my full reports on both stores are to follow but I have picked a few standouts. As you can see, there’s some tremendously exciting stuff going on in both locations, particularly in beauty and spirits & wine.
I was honoured to be invited on Saturday night by Times DF to attend a Diageo Global Dinner at The Ritz Carlton, graced by their respective leadership teams and DFS China representatives. What an occasion, with some superb blended whisky (Johnnie Walker Blue Label and King George V) on show, followed by the newly released Talisker 44 year old, a magnificently deep and complex single malt, whose finish went on long into the Haikou night. I will bring you a fuller report on our main site.
Witnessing at first hand the investment in high-quality retail from all the retailers I met has reaffirmed my confidence and belief in the Hainan offshore duty free market. All see 2025 (when the island becomes completely tax free) as an opportunity, not a threat.
They are also passionate about developing a consumer experience that is more than purely transactional. The focus on culture and experience is as intoxicating as the wonderful aromas of that wonderful Talisker 44 Year Old from earlier this evening.
Hainan’s development over the past ten years has been remarkable. But I believe its future promises even greater things. On Monday I say a fond farewell to Hainan. It’s been a long time between visits but from now you simply won’t keep me away.
Stunning Exhibition Martin! I am surprised not to see more of global industry presence at Haikou. MoodieDavitt as always leading the way!