|Duty-free stores at Terminal 1 of Incheon International Airport appear relatively empty on May 15, 2020. (Yonhap)|
Both Lotte Duty Free and Shilla Duty Free’s leases expired in August but were extended for an additional six months after new bidders backed out before signing contracts, as the worsening coronavirus pandemic threatened prospects for duty-free shopping businesses.
With the possibility of further extensions off the table due to the Customs Act, the two operators will make their exit come February.
“We are considering passenger demand, COVID-19 vaccines’ approval and other issues related to the pandemic to make a decision on the timetable and terms for the rental bidding process,” one official at Incheon International Airport Corp. said Sunday.
Their departure is the latest sign of dwindling fortunes for the aviation and travel industries, which are among those worst hit by the pandemic.
In January last year IIAC began the bidding process for new duty-free store operators, offering lower rents in an attempt to keep shopping at the airport alive.
But the airport’s efforts proved insufficient to fend off growing skepticism and uncertainty surrounding duty-free shopping, prompting the search to continue for nearly a year.
By Yim Hyun-su (email@example.com)