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“Welcome to Paradise.” You Young-Sub, the President of Paradise Duty Free must have used the same greeting many times down the years but it has lost none of its warmth.
Mr You (pictured with Director Merchandising Department Jin-Mo Kim below) welcomes me warmly to the Paradise Duty Free hotel and shopping complex in the southern city of Busan. I am the first international travel retail journalist to visit the store and he is delighted that the company’s reputation for excellence in retailing is being recognised.
Paradise Duty Free, refurbished in late 2006 and spread over four floors, is one of Asia’s great duty free stores. Last year the retailer generated sales of around US$140.6 million (including its Daegu International Airport operations), up +30% on the previous year. This year it expects to reach US$160 million.
But it’s the quality that matters most to Mr You and to Paradise. The company’s vision is to be the world’s best duty free shop and it pours huge effort into customer service and staff training to ensure it makes progress on delivering those aims.
The Paradise Hotel, located in the beachside area of Haeundae – ‘the summer capital of Korea’ – is an example of what can be achieved. It is part of the Leading Hotels of the World group and lives up to the billing with its beautiful, understated elegance and quality of facilities and service.
Mr You and Paradise do more than just provide excellence in leisure and shopping facilities though. Paradise is a company that embraces social and corporate responsibility with a zeal. It has created the Paradise Welfare Foundation which, among many other things, subsidises the renovation of houses for low-income households and is involved in the development of hardware and software systems, conferences and workshops for the physically and mentally challenged.
Mr You personally funds a number of foreign students on university scholarships in Korea, underlining his sense of humanity. But he’s also an astute businessman, one who is determined to deliver Paradise’s qualitative mission.
“It depends entirely on ourselves, not on others,” he says with a smile. “We can prosper because of our service culture and our spirit, because the customer can feel it. It is not just about ticketing the customer and then letting them go away.”
A pleasant meeting closes (you can read all about it in our May Digital Print Edition) and Mr You urges me to return to Busan for a more extended stay sometime. I might just take him up on the offer. After all, it’s not often you get a chance to visit Paradise.