China To Open World’s Largest Duty-Free Mall

China Spent Last Two Years Trying To Make Sanya A Duty-Free “Paradise”

The planned Mission Hills Town Center project in Haikou will include a duty-free section

Aimed at stemming the flow of Chinese tourist-shoppers to Hong Kong, South Korea or further afield, the pilot duty-free program launched by the Chinese government in tropical Sanya, Hainan province two years ago (and expanded last summer) is about to get a whole lot bigger. Next year, the island is set to get a sprawling new duty-free mall, which — according to the China Duty Free Group — will open in Sanya covering some 70,000 square meters, making it the largest such venue in the world.

According to Chen Guoqiang of the China Duty Free Group, the shopping center will stock major international luxury brands and compete, price-wise, with duty-free shops in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Last year, an estimated 33 million tourists visited Hainan, and according to the China Duty Free Group, many were attracted to the island’s two duty-free shops. Between the launch of the program in April 2011 and January 2012, Sanya Duty-Free Store (三亚免税店) sold 1 billion yuan (US$159 million) worth of luxury goods, pushing the government to raise the duty-free quota from 5,000 yuan (US$795) to 8,000 yuan ($1,273) last summer.

Sanya Duty-Free Shop at its grand opening, summer 2011

The China Duty Free Group’s new complex won’t be the only large-scale kid on the block, however. By the end of this year, Hainan Provincial Duty Free Co Ltd (HNDF) is slated to create what it’s calling a “duty free shopping paradise” at the Mission Hills Tourism Town Center in Haikou. As HNDF General Manager Zhang Yiqing said of the project this week:

“For the Mission Hills duty-free store… the actual business operating area is very large. It will be over 100,000sq m, where we will have different models of retail operations. One is offshore duty-free and we will also have duty paid. For offshore duty-free shopping we not only want to offer dozens of luxury brands to our customers but we also want to turn this Mission Hills store into a shopping paradise for all tourists to Hainan Island.”

In addition to the duty-free section of the development, the massive complex will encompass 12 golf courses and a range of tourist venues, covering around 20 square kilometers. To put that into perspective, that’s about one-third the size of Hong Kong island.

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