Tue, October 24, 2017 | 09:36
Posted : 2017-09-13 15:19
Updated : 2017-09-14 14:37

Lotte demands Incheon Airport reduce rent amid losses

Lotte Duty Free's Incheon International Airport store / Courtesy of Lotte Duty Free

By Park Jae-hyuk

Lotte has officially asked the state-run Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) to lower its rent for the company's duty free shops at the airport, the retail giant said Wednesday.

The stores have experienced sluggish sales on the declining number of inbound Chinese tourists, following China's retaliation against Korea's deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system.

Korea's top duty free operator urged the airport operator to answer its request and asked the IIAC for a meeting to consult on the matter in one week.

Lotte Duty Free said it seeks to avoid the worst-case scenario, which is closing down and withdrawing its stores from the airport. Lotte threatened earlier this month to close its airport stores unless the IIAC accepts its demands.

The retail giant proposed the airport operator allow its duty free company to pay rent in accordance with its stores' revenue. The duty free stores have had to pay higher rent to cover the minimum guarantee.

The state-run Korea Airport Corp. (KAC), which operates the country's regional airports, has allowed Hanwha Galleria at Jeju International Airport to pay its rent in accordance with its sales. Hanwha was considering withdrawing its duty free shops from the island's airport last month.

Unlike the KAC, however, the IIAC has refused to cut the rent, saying the cost will be reduced after the opening of its second passenger terminal next year. It also said the airport operator cannot cut the rent without approval from the government, particularly, the infrastructure ministry, which oversees IIAC management.

If the IIAC refuses the proposal, Lotte Duty Free is expected to suffer losses worth 200 billion won ($177 million) this year and 1.4 trillion won over the entire period of its five-year contract with the airport, the retailer said. Lotte agreed to pay the IIAC 4 trillion won from September 2015 to August 2020, regardless of the stores' performance, when it was selected as the duty free operator for the largest space at the airport in 2015.

"Through the rent cut, we hope to boost competitiveness in the nation's tourism industry and achieve mutual growth with the IIAC," a Lotte Duty Free official said.

In addition to Lotte, mid-size duty free operators have urged airport operators to cut rent, following the drastic decline in the number of Chinese tourists.

Chinese travelers had been the stores' main customers until Beijing's de facto ban on Chinese tour agencies from offering Korea's tour packages. Tourists from Japan and Southeast Asia could not make up for their absence. Korea, as a result, suffered the biggest deficit in its travel services account in July.

Samick Duty Free recently filed a lawsuit against the IIAC over the rent issue. City Plus, another duty free operator at Gimpo International Airport, also filed a petition with the Fair Trade Commission, blaming the KAC for allegedly overlooking the market potential of the airport.

롯데면세점, 인천공항공사에 임대료 조정 공식 요청

롯데면세점은 임대료의 합리적 조정을 요청하는 공문을 12일 오후 인천공항공사에 전달했다고 13일 밝혔다.

    롯데면세점은 공문에서 면세점 산업의 위기 상황을 고려해 최소보장액이 아닌 품목별 영업료율에 따라 금액을 책정하는 임대료 구조 변경 방안을 인천공항공사에 제시했다.

    롯데면세점이 요청한 조정안에 따르면 인천공항 면세점 사업자는 상품별 매출액에 따라 최대 35%까지의 영업료율로 책정한 금액을 인천공항공사에 납부하게 된다.

    롯데면세점은 '다시 한 번 인천공항공사와의 협의를 시도하고 이를 통해 롯데면세점의 인천공항 전면적 철수라는 최악의 경우를 피하려는 시도'라며 '현 상황이 시급한 만큼 일주일 이내에 협의 일정을 회신해 달라고 요청했다'고 전했다.

    롯데면세점은 사드(THAAD·고고도미사일방어체계) 사태 여파로 예상치 못한 매출 급감이 이어지고, 특허 기간 단축 및 시내면세점 추가 등 면세점 정책 변화로 사업성이 악화해 더는 현재 수준의 인천공항 면세점 임대료를 감당하기 어렵다고 판단했다고 덧붙였다.

    롯데면세점은 2001년 3월 인천국제공항의 개항과 함께 인천공항 면세점 사업을 시작해 17년간 영업을 해왔다.

    현재 인천공항 면세점 중 가장 넓은 면적의 매장을 운영 중인 롯데면세점은 2015년 9월부터 2020년까지 8월까지 업황과 관계없이 총 약 4조1천억 원의 임대료를 인천공항공사에 납부하게 돼 있다.

    롯데면세점은 '올해 2천억 원 이상, 5년의 계약 동안 최소 1조4천억 원에 이르는 적자를 기록할 것으로 예상된다'며 '임대료 합의를 통해 앞으로도 인천공항공사와 함께 한국 관광산업의 경쟁력을 키우며 상호발전해나갈 수 있기를 희망한다'고 말했다. (연합뉴스)