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Hotel Shilla CEO upbeat as travel industry tanks

Mar 20,2020
Lee Boo-jin, the CEO of Hotel Shilla, speaks at the annual shareholders’ meeting Thursday in central Seoul. [HOTEL SHILLA]
Lee Boo-jin, the CEO of Samsung Group’s hotel and retail affiliate Hotel Shilla, vowed to combat the economic fallout from the coronavirus with new businesses and overseas expansion at a general shareholders’ meeting Thursday.

“The retail and travel industry should now be in a fight for survival because of the great uncertainties at play since the beginning of this year,” said Lee, who was also reappointed as a board director at the meeting.

The travel and hospitality industry has been battered by the growing coronavirus pandemic, as people put off vacation plans and stay home to avoid possible exposure. Hotel Shilla has lost nearly one-third of its share value since the beginning of the year.

Lee pledged to bank on new partnerships and deals for its duty-free business while establishing more resort units abroad. The Shilla Duty Free was forced to shut down its operation in Jeju last month and has cut back its operating hours to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“In terms of duty-free business, [Hotel Shilla] will be on the lookout for mergers and acquisitions and strategic partnerships and diversify the business model, products and distribution channels to take a step further from a limited business structure,” she said.

At the heart of its overseas push is Shilla Monogram, a new brand name to be used for Shilla’s resorts outside of Korea. The first branch was set to open in Da Nang, Vietnam, in 2019, although the opening has been postponed by delays.

“Hotel Shilla will consolidate its footing as a hotel chain with Shilla Monogram,” Lee said, “After successfully launching the first branch, we will extend into other locations.”

The shares of Hotel Shilla dipped 9.61 percent to close at 63,000 won on Thursday.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]