Thailand’s much-maligned airport duty-free monopoly appears set to be nearing an end.
For years, major Thai retailers have complained that incumbent operator King Power has controlled the retail offer – and prices – at Thailand’s largest airports, especially Suvarnabhumi outside Bangkok. Frequent travellers often comment that airport ‘duty-free’ prices are higher than at other airports in the region, including Singapore and Hong Kong.
On Wednesday, state-owned Airports of Thailand (AOT) approved guidelines for concessions for duty-free and commercial activities at its airports, the first step in opening up retail spaces to other companies.
According to Reuters, AOT will offer three retail licences at an upcoming auction, clearing the way for Thai retail giants Central Group and The Mall Group, along with South Korea’s Hotel Shilla, to enter the fray.
King Power’s current licence ends next year.
AOT says contracts will cover duty-free retail, commercial businesses such as food and beverage outlets and pick-up counters for shoppers who buy goods in town and collect them at the airport after clearing customs and immigration.