Duty-free shops saw a marked rise in online sales to Chinese customers ahead of China's Singles Day, the Chinese version of Black Friday, amid signs that Chinese tourists are returning now that an unofficial boycott has ended.
Flights between Korea and China are also filling up again.
Lotte's online duty-free sales to Chinese customers in the first 10 days of November rose 12 percent over the same period last year, while Shilla's rose 30 percent.
"Cosmetics and beauty products sold particularly well, and discounts and gifts targeting Chinese customers seemed to be paying off," a Shilla staffer said.
Newer duty-free shops saw even larger growth in sales this year. Shinsegae saw a 90 percent increase in online sales and HDC Shilla a 69 percent rise.
A Shinsegae staffer said customers who buy products online need to come to Korea within two months to pick them up, "so we're making plans for a surge in Chinese group tourists arriving toward the end of this year."
According to Incheon International Airport Corporation, the number of flights connecting cities in Korea and China fell to 6,222 in June of this year, when the boycott was at its peak, down 82 percent compared to the same period of 2016.
But last month, regular flights between the two countries rose to 6,926, reaching 88 percent of pre-boycott levels. The number of non-regular flights, which fell to less than 10 a month from May to August, rose to 84 in October.
An airline industry source said, "When large Chinese travel agencies tell us that they will recruit large numbers of travelers, airlines secure flights one to two months in advance, so we expect big crowds at the end of the year."
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