All eyes are on Hainan.  Last year it was the second-largest market for duty-free shopping in China, accounting for 35% of all sales. Fast-forward to 2020, Hainan is now by far the biggest duty-free shopping area with most of its competitors closed for business as planes are grounded.

In fact, the ForwardKeys data shows that in April duty-free shopping in the region has grown by 7% year on year, which means it has grown to be the largest duty-free shopping market in China.


The power of Domestic tourism

With the government officials putting strict travel rules in place and limiting the flight capacity in and out of China, the real pick up has taken place on the roads of China.

Hotels have opened in key leisure destinations and tourist attractions are offering discounts to lure in the local traveller. Long-distances to travel are not deterring people from shopping to cure their lock-down blues.

In a previous study by ForwardKeys, we demonstrated the lift in air tickets issued to Hainan in time for the 5-Day Labour Day weekend – showing the appeal the tropical island paradise has domestically as well as the desire to travel once permission to do so is given.

A shift in travellers

There appears to be a real thirst for revenge shopping in Hainan, especially from travellers from the North and South-West of China.

“There has been a 68% increase in spending in Hainan which is a high month on month variation. We can see through our China Spend data that in April, shoppers have spent more in Hainan than last year,” says Marina Giuliano, Director of Travel Retail and Retail at ForwardKeys.

“Considering the lower number of travellers in the area compared to last year, that confirms that people really are looking forward to getting out of the house to go shopping,” adds Giuliano.

Indeed, the flight ticket volume sold in June to Sanya remains behind 57% of the tickets sold in June 2019, yet shopping results are on the increase. Seat capacity is the way forward for the region.


Further supporting this is the spending data of 2019 which highlights that the most common shopping audiences in Hainan came from Beijing (38.6%), Shanghai and Chengdu (both 13.8%) and Chongqing (10.2%) – will this be the same in 2020?

Shopping behaviour

Roughly around 5% of the total shoppers made at least one luxury goods purchase in the past 6 months. The largest proportion of shoppers spend between $0 -$500 in one transaction at a duty-free mall; however, the 2nd tier of shoppers spent more than $2500.

There is even more reason to keep an eye on this latter segment as spending big is something the Chinese officials are fully supporting and encouraging. Visitors to Hainan will be able to make duty free purchases of up to CNY100,000 per year, a considerable rise on the prior CNY 30,000 limit.

20200623-haian-duty-free-3-1Travel retailers need to take stock of the offline shopping habits made in 2019 when markets were more stable and prepare their inventory more adequately this year in Hainan as the data is showing the real might the region has when it comes to duty-free shopping.

“I am happy to finally share some positive travel news, especially in the travel retail world. For months we’ve all suspected the duty-free shopping rebound to take place in Hainan, and now we have data that proves this,” concludes Giuliano positively.


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