South Korea duty-free operators restart marketing for China amid thawing ties

Thursday (Dec 21), HDC Shilla Duty Free (pictured) and Shinsegae Duty Free announced that they had signed agreements with Chinese agencies to expand marketing to China.
Thursday (Dec 21), HDC Shilla Duty Free (pictured) and Shinsegae Duty Free announced that they had signed agreements with Chinese agencies to expand marketing to China.PHOTO: ESTHER YIU

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Duty-free operators from South Korea are restarting marketing efforts that target Chinese consumers, as thawing relations between the two countries point to the possibility of recovering sales.

On Thursday (Dec 21), HDC Shilla Duty Free and Shinsegae Duty Free announced that they had signed agreements with Chinese agencies to expand marketing to China.

HDC Shilla Duty Free opened a studio in its IPark store for Chinese Internet celebrities, known as wang hong, to create specialised content for the Chinese.

HDC Shilla Duty Free also signed an agreement with wang hong marketing agency RedIN to strategically invite Internet celebrities who focus on shopping content and feature them in marketing to China.

According to the company, the agreement may lead to the duty-free operator and Internet celebrities jointly developing tourism products to be sold in China.

Meanwhile, Shinsegae Duty Free has teamed up with Ma Feng Wo, a travel information platform that is China's answer to Lonely Planet, to create travel content focused on Korea.

According to the company, the target is Chinese travellers born in the 1990s. The content will feature Ma Feng Wo's travel experts who will introduce Shinsegae Duty Free as a shopping destination to save time and money.

"The goal is to provide brand information in a natural way to Chinese consumers who have become tired of ads, and to promote Shinsegae Duty Free through storytelling and content marketing," Shinsegae Duty Free said in a media release.

Efforts such as these reflect duty-free operators' hopes that sales from Chinese tourists may rise again, starting with independent travellers.

"Because of the political situation this year, wang hong were a bit reluctant to come to Korea and create content. Now that the situation is beginning to change, the industry is slowly beginning to bring back those types of marketing," said an official with Hotel Shilla, which operates Shilla Duty Free. "There will be more efforts to appeal to independent travellers not only in duty-free but across the retail industry with time."

Bilateral ties between South Korea and China have cooled markedly over Seoul's deployment of the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system against North Korea's nuclear threat. China objected to the deployment of Thaad, saying that it compromised its security interests.

Beijing then imposed boycotts targeting group tours to South Korea, K-pop and South Korean companies operating in China.

Relations were set for a reboot with South Korean President Moon Jae In's visit to China this month (December).