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Matsu to rebrand as luxury shopping destination

TAIPEI--Taiwan's outlying island chain of Matsu will for the first time open up a duty-free shopping center and boutiques selling luxury products later this year as it continues to try to woo more Chinese tourists after agreeing to allow casinos there for the same reason, a tourism official has said.

The group of islands is located only 20 kilometers from mainland China, but sees only about 7,000 Chinese visitors a year. It wants a lot more. To attract more tourists, local residents passed a referendum in early July to allow casino resorts to be built there for the first time.

Now, the county wants to begin attracting more tourists and prepare for a hoped-for influx of tourists by opening shops selling luxury brands, said Guu Yung-yuan, director of the Matsu National Scenic Area Administration.

“We want Matsu to be recognized as a destination for shopping,” Guu said, adding that Matsu's shift in image from a pristine island to luxurious vacation village could appeal to Chinese tourists-known for their strong interests in luxury brands, as well as Taiwan-made goods.

The duty-free shopping center will mainly provide Taiwanese goods.

The boutiques will sell top brands — like Gucci or LV — at prices that are even cheaper than Hong Kong and other Chinese coastal cities, Guu said.

The market potential is huge, Guu said, explaining that Chinese tourists are fond of merchandise from natural soaps, to skincare products, to electric rice cookers.

Initially, Matsu will introduce a 1,600-square meter duty-free mall on Aug. 4. It is hoped that the mall will generate revenue of NT$60 million (US$2 million) each year.

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