Chinese state media has declared war on duty-free stores at Heathrow Airport

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heathrow duty freeA Duty Free shop is seen in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London June 4, 2014. Heathrow's rebuilt Terminal 2 welcomed its first passengers on Wednesday, as it began its gradual re-opening. REUTERS/Neil HallNeil Hall/Reuters

  • China accused World Duty Free of discriminating against Chinese tourists at one of its shops at Heathrow Airport.
  • Chinese travellers were reportedly asked to spend more than customers from other countries to get a discount voucher.
  • World Duty Free apologised.
  • Chinese state media said there was "no sincerity" in the apology.


Chinese state media has declared war on a duty-free shopping outlet at Heathrow Airport, accusing it of discriminating against Chinese people.

The quarrel started on Monday, when Chinese outlets reported that Chinese travellers were asked to pay more than people from other countries to get a discount voucher World Duty Free in Heathrow.

Chinese shoppers had been asked to spend £1,000 ($1,390) to receive a 20% discount voucher, while people from other countries only had to spend £250 ($347) to get it, the state-run China Global Television Network reported on Monday.

Following the article's publication, World Duty Free issued an apology, written in English and simplified Chinese, saying it had "taken urgent steps" and "comprehensively re-briefed" staff on how to rectify the promotional deal.

Heathrow Airport also said in a statement to the BBC that the practice was "unacceptable," and that it was working to "ensure it does not happen again."

But this didn't seem good enough for China.

Xinhua, a state-run outlet, noted on Tuesday that World Duty Free's Chinese language apology explicitly addressed "the Chinese public," while its English language apology did not.

It said:

"The Chinese text was obviously intended to iron out the outrage of the Chinese people both in China and in Britain, but its obscure and ambiguous English version revealed the true attitude of the company as it omitted key wording in the Chinese version.

"The duty-free retailer's promotional rules are neither clear nor transparent to customers. Nothing was mentioned at this stage about whether the company would punish those who are responsible, and no specific measures were given to solve the problem. [...]

"Chinese customers have all the reason to doubt the company's sincerity."

The state-run China Daily, which publishes in English, also tweeted: "There is no sincerity in the statement as it neither explains the reason Chinese customers had to spend more, nor gives a solution to prevent that from happening again."

chinese tourists buckingham palaceLONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Chinese tourists have their pictures taken outside Buckingham Palace on July 29, 2012 in London, England. Today the womens road race takes over the centre of London, starting and finishing on the Mall in sight of the Palace. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)Matthew Lloyd/Getty

The number of Chinese tourists coming to the UK has risen over the past few years, and is considered by the British government to be a massive boon for the economy.

The UK is expecting about 349,000 visits from China to the UK in 2018, according to Visit Britain, the government's tourism agency. Chinese tourists spend on average £1,972 ($2,734) per visit, it said.

Business Insider contacted World Duty Free, but the store declined to comment.

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