Incheon Airport Under Fire Over Louis Vuitton Shop

Incheon International Airport is making headlines for the unprecedented conditions it offered Louis Vuitton to open a store there. Shilla Duty Free, a part of the Shilla Hotel owned by the Samsung Group, signed a deal with the French luxury brand to open a store between gates 27 and 28 at Incheon. At present, the space is occupied by a bookstore, coffee shop and waiting area for passengers and is considered the best location in the airport.

Moreover, Incheon is charging just 6-7 percent of Louis Vuitton's revenue as rent. The move has irked other shops in the airport, which pay 20 percent. Many are accusing airport officials of kowtowing to the luxury brand. Another luxury brand has apparently hinted it may leave the airport, and yet another is demanding similar contract terms. The brewing controversy has even prompted the Board of Audit and Inspection to look into the matter.

But Incheon International Airport president Lee Chae-wook told reporters Wednesday attracting the luxury chain is not easy. "So far Schipol International Airport of the Netherlands, Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and Singapore's Changi Airport have tried to lure Louis Vuitton but failed," he said. He claimed the presence of the brand could "help attract Chinese, Japanese and other tourists and transfer traffic and boost the airport's brand image."

Another airport official said, "Louis Vuitton is the favorite brand of Chinese tourists and if it opens a store at another airport in China, Hong Kong or Japan, Incheon could lose out."

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 16, 2010 12:50 KST