World’s largest stand-alone duty-free shopping complex opens in China

By Zhao Peng, Sun Haitian


Driving along the coast of Haikou, the capital city of south China’s Hainan province, all the way west, people would be attracted by a huge facility that resembles a blooming begonia flower. That’s Haikou International Duty Free Shopping Complex, the world’s largest stand-alone duty-free shopping mall. It just opened in Haikou a few days ago.


Located close to Xinhai Port, a key transportation hub in Haikou, the new shopping complex boasts a construction area of around 289,000 square meters, which is equivalent to the size of 39 football fields. It has four floors above ground and two floors underground. A tour of the entire facility by foot would make a trip of more than four kilometers.


Inspired by begonia flowers and the sea, the architectural design of the shopping mall features dynamic and elegant curves. The atrium of the shopping mall is filled with elements of tropical rainforest. In the atrium, there is a giant glass curtain wall, which is 11.3 meters high. The curtain wall reflects the splendid and mysterious tropical rainforest-themed atrium like a mirror. Visitors would be immediately attracted by the curtain wall as soon as they enter the mall and feel as if they were in a jungle as they look around.


As an important part of the tropical rainforests in the world, tropical rainforests in Hainan represent the most concentrated, best-preserved, and largest contiguous tropical rainforests in China.


The thematic design of the shopping mall’s atrium, which is named AURA, not only agrees with the local conditions of Hainan province but also conveys the idea of green consumption to consumers.


In fact, the shopping complex has tried to be environmentally friendly in every link of its design and construction, as well as in every aspect of its operations.


During the planning and design period, the facility adopted a good number of design concepts for energy conservation to reduce its comprehensive energy consumption, including natural lighting, sponge city, cyclic utilization of rainwater, intelligent lighting, and contactless payment.


In particular, the novel design of the large glazed glass dome with a hollow center enables the facility to effectively use natural light, thus saving more than 10 percent of the amount of electricity consumed for indoor lighting.


The shopping mall has vigorously promoted green construction and management through measures targeting many aspects, including energy management, building materials, and pollution prevention and control.


In addition, since it entered operation, the facility has leveraged big data platforms to make use of low-carbon technologies and achievements in environmental protection.


These efforts have made the mega shopping mall a low-carbon facility.


On its first day of business, the new shopping mall received more than 44,000 visitors, while the number of individual visitors on the online shopping platform of China Duty Free Group Co., Ltd. (CDFG), the operator of the shopping mall, reached two million.


On the same day, the 11 offshore duty-free shops in Hainan reported a record high of more than 700 million yuan ($96.18 million) in total sales.


As more and more consumers have shifted from foreign countries to Hainan for overseas products in recent years, the annual sales of offshore duty-free shops in Hainan grew from 990 million yuan in 2012, when the province officially rolled out the offshore duty-free shopping policy, to 49.5 billion yuan last year.


Over the past 11 years, the policy has been adjusted eight times, with the annual tax-free shopping quota being increased from 5,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan per person and the number of categories of duty-free goods expanding from 18 to 45.


By 2021, the annual sales of offshore duty-free products in Hainan had risen more than 10 times, the total sales of duty-free products had exceeded 100 billion yuan, and the annual growth rate of the sales of duty-free products in the province had averaged 44.6 percent.


Last year, sales of duty-free products accounted for half of Hainan’s tourism revenue, the share of duty-free goods imports in the total imports of Hainan reached one-third, and the sales of such goods contributed one-fourth of the total retail sales of consumer goods in the province.


With offshore duty-free shopping experience in Hainan being continuously improved and upgraded, the policy is propelling the high-quality economic development of the entire province.


The newly opened shopping mall has gathered more than 800 international and domestic brands, among which 25 brands have been introduced to duty-free shops in Hainan for the first time and 78 brands are sold exclusively in shops operated by the CDF in Hainan. The opening of the mall marked an increase in the total area of offshore duty-free shops in Hainan from 220,000 square meters to 490,000 square meters.


In an effort to attract more tourists, Hainan has planned to issue 53 million yuan worth of tourism consumption coupons between Oct. 27 and Dec. 31.


It’s believed that the world’s largest stand-alone duty-free shopping mall will usher in brighter prospects for the economic development of Hainan province.


The first Hainan International Offshore Duty-Free Shopping Festival, which kicked off in Sanya, Hainan province, on June 28, will last until the end of the year, according to a white paper on the tourism retail market of the Hainan Free Trade Port, which disclosed that the Wangfujing International Duty-Free Port will start operation in January 2023 in Wanning city, Hainan province.


The white paper predicted that if Hainan continues to maintain its current growth momentum, it will become the world’s largest duty-free market in a short time.