The government sources said that if approval is given for the shopping centers in the capital city, it would mark the first such decision in 15 years.
“A meeting to promote trade and investment will be held in January to discuss ways to foster tourism-related services and make changes to shortcomings in policy detected so far,” an official said.
He said policymakers are considering easing restrictions on real estate investment trust (REIT) firms and clarifying rules on insurance companies entering the business in order to revitalize the development and management of tourist hotels in the country.
The government may give the operational rights of one Seoul-based outlet to a regional duty-free shop operator to address the lack of customers using such facilities outside of Seoul and Jeju.
At present, there are 41 duty-free shopping centers nationwide, with 16 located in Seoul, five on Jeju Island and 19 at international airports and ship terminals as well as one reserved exclusively for diplomats.
Jeju, located off South Korea’s southern coast, is a popular resort island and tourist destination.
The total sales from such shops topped 7.6 trillion won in the first 10 months of this year as more foreigners visited the country. In 2001, the sales of duty-free shops stood at 1.8 trillion won. In particular, Chinese tourists have played a large part in pushing up sales.
The financial regulators may also opt to ease regulations regarding capital for REIT companies and how they manage portfolios. This could make it easier for REITs to attract investments and retrieve funds poured into projects.