Lotte Duty Free, South Korea's No. 1 duty-free operator, has submitted a bid to renew its license to run a store in Seoul, authorities said Monday, amid growing hopes for a return of Chinese tourists.
Lotte Duty Free applied to win the license to continue its operation at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in the southern part of the capital city, as it has been doing since 2010.
The Seoul customs office opened the process as Lotte's current contract is set to expire at the end of next month.
Lotte needs approval from the authorities to secure the right to continue operations in the affluent Gangnam district. The license would be valid for the next five years.
No other retailers took part in the bidding, apparently due to fierce competition in the region, according to industry sources. Two other duty-free shops, operated by Hyundai Department Store and Shinsegae, respectively, are set to open in the coming years.
The latest bidding took place amid hopes of Chinese group tourists returning to South Korea. The number of Chinese nationals visiting the country dropped sharply in the face of a diplomatic row between the two countries.
The Chinese government had banned its travel agencies from selling Korea-bound tours since mid-March in an apparent retaliation over Seoul's deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
Yet there have been growing hopes for their return, after Seoul and Beijing said they will make efforts to put their relations back on track late last month.