Top Travel Retailers Report (continued)

China Duty Free Group

2021 Sales (million)


2021 Rank


In 2021, China Duty Free Group cemented the leadership status among the world’s leading travel retailers that it achieved in 2020. Its revenues rose by +28.65% year-on-year to CNY67.7 billion (just under €9.4 billion), according to parent company China Tourism Group Duty Free Corp (China Tourism Group).

CDFG’s strong performance in the Hainan offshore duty free was the key driver. Sales in the island province rose +57.07% in 2021 to CNY49.03 billion (€7 billion).

In the past decade and more, CDFG has undergone an extraordinary transformation underpinned by the explosive growth in the key Hainan market. The company ranked 19th in our Top Travel Retailers list in 2010. By 2015 CDFG ranked 12th, and was fourth in 2019 based on sales of just over €6 billion.

The momentum has continued into 2022, despite the impact of COVID-19 on Chinese domestic travel in late Q1 and into Q2. Group revenue dropped sharply from RMB13.1 billion (US$2.0 billion) in January and February combined to just RMB3.7 billion (US$569.1 million) in March, with store closures affecting business in April too. But travel and business are gradually picking up as travel restrictions ease, notably to Hainan from cities such as Shanghai.

In another crucial indicator of improving market conditions, in late June CDFG’s parent company set the wheels in motion for a big-budget secondary listing on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

Face of the future: The new Haikou International Duty Free City is nearing completion

Crucially, CDFG’s market dominance in Hainan looks set to continue even as competitors enter the market. The group retains an offshore duty free market share of around 91% (2021 official figures) with Hainan Tourism Investment Duty Free Co (HTDF) at 5%, Hainan Development Holdings (GDF Plaza) with 3% followed by small shares held by CNSC and Shenzhen Duty Free/DFS Mission Hills.

The opening of the hugely ambitious Haikou International Duty Free City project – the world’s biggest duty free shopping complex – later in 2022 will help build on CDFG’s powerful status in the market.

Once borders reopen – probably on a limited basis from Q1 2023 (though there may be some easing in Q4 2022) – there will likely be an impact on Hainan as Chinese travel overseas. However, the ease of travel to the island coupled with its natural attractions and attractive duty free allowance (approximately US$15,000 a year) will ensure that Hainan remains a distinctive force in Asia travel retail for years to come.

China Tourism Group told investors in early 2022 that it will shift the focus to profitability over revenue scale. “As opposed to benchmarking with Korea operators which generate merely single-digit % margins, CTGDF believes it can bring its gross margin closer to Dufry’s 55-60% level, leveraging on its business scale and product variety,” Goldman Sachs noted. This, balanced with a more restrained pricing approach across the island by all retailers, should boost margins. CDFG also still sees scope for growth in Hainan through improved shopper conversion ratio (already high) and per-shopper spending.

More broadly, the company strategy is closely aligned to government policy to retain traveller spend at home, and maximising the potential of the diverse channels it serves, spanning offshore duty free, downtown, border, cruise & ferry, inflight, rail and diplomatic.

The Sanya International Duty Free Shopping Complex has proved a hugely attractive drawcard for brand investment through the pandemic

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 313 | 28 July 2022

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 14 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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