In 2015, many were surprised by the news that a Korean company has bought the iconic 130-year-old New York Palace in Manhattan, New York.
The fact is, LOTTE, the Korean company in question, has been a leader in the Korean tourism industry for the last four decades, and is increasingly setting its sight on the world stage.
LOTTE’s wide-reaching footprint
LOTTE’s tourism business includes LOTTE Hotel, Korea’s no 1. hospitality business by volume, LOTTE Duty Free, a leader in the world’s duty-free shopping, LOTTE Property & Development, which operates Korea's landmark LOTTE World Tower, LOTTE World, which manages Korea's biggest theme park, aquarium and water park, and LOTTE Giants, a professional baseball team based in the Korean city of Busan.
Additionally, LOTTE has businesses in service areas such as LOTTE Global Logistics, Asia’s No.1 rental car company LOTTE Rental and LOTTE JTB, a company which struck up a joint venture with Japan's No. 1 travel agency, to proffer services benefiting the itinerant crowd.
LOTTE’s role in the development of the Korean Tourism Industry
The histories of the Korean tourism industry and LOTTE Tourism are intertwined. Back in late 70s and 80s, when the Korean tourism industry was still in its infancy, LOTTE Hotel was already receiving visitors, both domestic and overseas. In 1988, it was designated as the official hotel of the Seoul Olympic Games, and in 2002, for the FIFA Korea-Japan World Cup, and Busan Asian Games. These events cemented the Hotel as the no. 1 hotel chain in Korea.
LOTTE’s duty-free business also played an important role in the development of the Korean tourism industry. LOTTE Duty Free is ranked at no.2 in the global duty-free business.
Since opening the first boutique-style duty-free shop in 1980, LOTTE has led new changes in duty-free shopping by incorporating luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel.
In 2000, it opened the world's first Internet duty-free shop and now operates Internet and mobile duty-free sites in four languages, including Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English, proving its agility to adapt to ever-evolving consumption trends.
All-encompassing hospitality services
LOTTE’s first-mover advantage, coupled with shrewd expansion and integration over the years make it one of the most recognisable brands, not only in Korea but all over Asia and increasingly, Europe and North America. This is no doubt exacerbated by the rise of Korean cultural exports, including K-pop, in recent years.
LOTTE Hotel currently has a full service lineup—from the 6-star SIGNIEL and 5-star LOTTE Hotel to 4-star business hotel LOTTE City Hotel, lifestyle hotel L7 Hotel, not to mention LOTTE Resort, which offers a variety of leisure and entertainment facilities.
When combined, LOTTE Hotel boasts some 20 hotels in major tourist cities and regions in Korea such as Busan, Jeju, Ulsan, and Daejeon as well as Seoul, allowing business and leisure travelers an abundance of choice.
Aside from hotels, LOTTE World Tower, a Seoul landmark, has been touted as a must-see for those visiting Korea.
At a towering 555m with 123 stories, it is the fifth tallest building in the world, and boasts a plethora of shopping and dining options. The Seoul Sky offers a 360- degree view of the city, with its glass floor providing a thrilling and unique experience from 500m above ground.
In addition, LOTTE World Adventure, the world's largest urban theme park, opened in 1989, and offers a variety of rides and performances throughout the year.
LOTTE Aquarium, Korea's largest aquarium, boasts 55,000 marine life from 650 species, and is especially popular among families.
Meanwhile, LOTTE Rental means that visitors can conveniently go from place to place whilst avoiding public transportation crowds—perhaps popping by a LOTTE Concert Hall, LOTTE Museum of Art and LOTTE Duty Free Shop all within a day.
LOTTE Hotel & LOTTE Duty Free: From Korea to the World
Having cemented its roots in Korea, LOTTE is exporting its hospitality know-how to the rest of the world.
LOTTE Hotel has a total of 30 chains in various countries and regions including Korea, the United States, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Uzbekistan and Myanmar.
The acquisition of the 130-year-old luxurious New York Palace in 2015 caused quite a stir in the industry.
LOTTE Hotel Moscow, which opened in 2010, was ranked No. 1 in Conde Nast Traveler’s Best City Hotel category. The awards is often regarded as the travel industry’s ‘Nobel Prize’. Its reputation was cemented in 2014, when it was selected as 'Europe's Best Hotel' at the Villegiature Awards.
LOTTE Hotel Moscow isn’t of course, the only hotel with accolades.
SIGNIEL and LOTTE Hotel Seoul have both been selected as the Hotel of the Year in Global Traveler.
On March 5, LOTTE Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin said in a media interview that the company will expand its hotel business globally in the future, with view to double the existing 15,000 rooms in five years through M&As.
LOTTE Hotel opened in Vladivostok, Russia in 2018, and the LOTTE Hotel Seattle is scheduled to open in June this year.
The 250-room lifestyle hotel L7 in Hanoi, Vietnam, is slated for a 2020 opening, while a 300-room five-star hotel will open in Ho Chi Minh in early 2024
Naturally, the best hotels come with the best services. LOTTE Hotel is positioning itself as a global brand with sophisticated but also localised customer service.
The world's second-largest LOTTE Duty Free, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, is preparing to become the world's No. 1 global travel retail company.
LOTTE Duty Free operates eight stores in Korea, including Myeongdong Head Office in Seoul, World Tower Store, Busan Store, Jeju Store and Incheon Airport Store.
As mentioned above, the world's first Internet duty-free shop opened in 2000. Since then, the business has strengthened with ever-improving CRM. LOTTE Duty Free is undergoing rapid overseas expansion, having opened stores in Jakarta in 2013 and Guam Airport in 2014, while also expanding its footprint in Japan and Vietnam. It entered Oceania in 2019, opening four Australian branches and one New Zealand branch. All of which takes the grand total to 12 branches in seven countries. In June this year, it will open a duty-free shop at Singapore's Changi Airport, the Southeast Asia’s ‘airport hub’ boasting the world's seventh largest number of passengers worldwide.
To respond to rising worldwide interests, LOTTE is also pushing out various marketing initiatives that utilises Korean contemporary culture, making its mark in the world of tax-free shopping, and contributing to the development of the global tourism industry.
Looking ahead—to technology?
Despite its success, the company believes there is always more to be done.
One key success behind LOTTE’s tourism division is its ability to constantly innovate without being bogged down by past successes.
LOTTE World Adventure is set to change the landscape of the theme park market. Since 2015, it has introduced attractions that utilise VR (Virtual Reality, Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) technologies to provide consumers with experiences beyond physical limitations.
LOTTE Rental is doing something similar.
As the No.1 rental car market in Asia, LOTTE Rental has introduced advanced technology to provide new benefits to consumers. Using IoT (Internet of Things) technology, consumers check the status of the vehicle in real time. When maintenance time is approaching, the system will send an alert to consumers with recommendations. Both PCs and smartphones can be connected to the car 24 hours, 7 days a week.
There is also 'autochange' program, where consumers, after paying a monthly fee, can change car models within a certain period of time, and a car-sharing service, which cuts costs for users—and harm for the environment.
How far would this game changer spirit take LOTTE? We look forward to finding out.