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The Moodie Report’s temporary Korean Bureau is about to close after a pleasant two day stay at the Korean Air-run Hyatt Regency Incheon, just a few hundred yards from Incheon International Airport.
As the picture above shows, I have a room with a view – in fact a view of what was rated the world’s best airport in the recent Airport Service Quality Awards.
It’s an inspirational perspective – after all, if you’re going to write about the aviation business there’s nothing better than seeing it with your own eyes.
Writing The Moodie Report into the late, late hours while looking out over this spectacular airport, with the skyline punctuated frequently by the bright blue colours of the Korean Air fleet… hey, you remember what made you love this business in the first place.
Tonight though it’s all quiet on this eastern front as all the delegates have gone home from the World’s Best Airports Forum which took place here over the past two days.
All but one. For The Moodie Report the long journey back to London doesn’t beckon until tomorrow so it’s time to catch up on the mounting backlog of copy and e-mails. As I write, darkness has set in and it’s a diet of room service and a glass or two of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for company as I spend my final evening here turning the meetings of the past few days into copy.
And what copy there is. I’ve been coming to South Korea since the early 90s and I’ve never been anything less than fascinated by the industry’s progress here.
Remember, it’s only a quarter of a century ago that most Koreans were unable to travel abroad, let alone buy duty free.
In less than three decades the travel retail sector has grown into a US$2.5 billion channel, featuring some of the most upscale shopping environments in the world.
Before Incheon opened in 2001, the retail offer at Kimpo Airport (now called Gimpo) was one of the most scorned in the industry. Today Incheon’s is one of the world’s most successful, generating sales of US$1.1 billion in 2007, maintaining a momentum that seems certain to make it the leading duty free sales location on the planet this year.
Yesterday Incheon International Airport Corporation unveiled its new ‘Airstar’ brand for its retail offer. It’s striking, sophisticated and serious in equal measure.
Today the airport management gave us a guided tour of the new concourse that opens in June and which will feature some state-of-the-art retailing from the likes of Lotte Duty Free and The Shilla Duty Free plus a radically improved food & beverage offer. We also wandered the main Passenger Terminal Building where the new concessions began on 1 March. Most of the shops there are temporary – the final shops will open next month – but one that is already trading, and flourishing, is the AK Duty Free fragrances & cosmetics store, which is posting daily sales of US$600,000.
It’s been an exhilarating week. The market here is alive with ambition and self belief. But its executives never, ever, fail to show their appreciation for your visit to their country.
From my first visit to Paradise (Duty Free) to subequent interviews with Lotte, Korean Air, Incheon International Airport Corporation and Won Kim of independent agent Brandepot, I received the warmest of welcomes. What I learned from them all left me convinced that this extraordinary duty free market has even greater days ahead of it.
As night settles over Incheon, The Moodie Report’s Korean Bureau closes down for another year.