SEOUL, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- The operator of Incheon International Airport, South Korea's main gateway, appears to have failed to draw enough bidders for its duty-free auctions again, highlighting the industrywide slump amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
The Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) has been seeking to award licenses for its six duty-free selections in Terminal 1, but its two past attempts have fallen through due to lack of bidders.
Only one duty-free operator run by a conglomerate and another operated by a smaller company submitted applications Monday to participate in the auctions, according to industry sources.
The official deadline for the auction falls at 4 p.m. Tuesday, but preset bidding rules were already not met due to a lack of participants.
It marks the airport operator's third thwarted attempt to auction duty-free licenses following similar failures in February and late September amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September, of the country's four major duty-free operators, only industry leader Lotte Hotel and No. 3 player Shinsegae took part in the bidding.
Industry watchers said the IIAC is widely expected to approach duty-free operators to clinch license deals.
South Korean duty-free operators have been suffering from the slump as the number of customers has sharply fallen amid air travel disruptions.
Duty-free stores saw their combined sales fall below the 1 trillion-won (US$869 million) threshold for the first time in four years in April.
Their sales increased for the fourth straight month in August as smaller Chinese vendors returned to South Korea amid reviving domestic demand on the mainland. But their revenues still remain far below the pre-pandemic level.
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