Duty-free shops in Hainan province saw sales of 1.5 billion yuan ($232 million) during the Spring Festival shopping spree, double the figure for the Spring Festival holiday in 2019.
From Feb 11, Lunar New Year's eve, to Wednesday, sales at Hainan's nine duty-free shops reached 1.5 billion yuan, 1.4 billion yuan of which was for duty-free goods, official data showed.
The stores welcomed more than 200,000 visitors over the holiday period, and many of the visitors tried the new "mail and delivery" shopping service, which was introduced on Feb 2.
During the same period last year, Hainan's duty-free shops had sales of just 16 million yuan due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haikou Daily reported on Tuesday.
Xiao Di, a shopper at a duty-free store in downtown Haikou, said this year's Spring Festival holiday "was a great time to go shopping in Hainan", as all of the duty-free outlets were offering big discounts, vouchers and lottery drawings.
Xie Xiangxiang, an associate professor of tourism at Hainan University, attributed the shopping enthusiasm to a much greater shopping quota for consumers, a longer list of duty-free goods and a range of promotional activities.
On July 1, Hainan raised the annual duty-free shopping quota to 100,000 yuan per person from the previous 30,000 yuan. The categories of goods included were also expanded from 38 to 45, with liquor and electronic products added.
Xie suggested that top Chinese brands should be added to the duty-free shopping lists, to give more choices for overseas tourists visiting Hainan and let the Hainan Free Trade Port play a more important role in contributing to the nation's new dual circulation paradigm, in which domestic and overseas markets reinforce each other, with the former acting as the mainstay.
"Duty-free shopping is expected to become the new blockbuster growth point for Hainan's tourism industry and the development of Hainan as an international tourism center," he added.
Despite the pandemic, total sales of duty-free goods in Hainan reached 27.48 billion yuan in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 103.7 percent, with the number of individual shopping trips increasing by 19.2 percent to 4.48 million, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Feng Fei, governor of Hainan, said duty-free sales networks around Hainan will be expanded to better meet domestic demand for imported goods during the period of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), with sales of duty-free goods expected to reach 300 billion yuan over the next five years.
In his government work report delivered in late January, Feng said Hainan would promote mail delivery of duty-free goods and other means in order to reach record annual sales of more than 60 billion yuan this year.
Apart from the nine duty-free shops that are currently in operation in Hainan, a number of new duty-free shops that will open exclusively to local residents are also in the pipeline, said officials with the provincial government.
Meanwhile, a new duty-free shopping mall is under construction in Haikou. It is due to open in 2023 and will involve a total investment of 12.86 billion yuan.