Duty-Free Billionaire’s Fortune Surges Amid Tourism Rebound

King Power International’s duty-free shops are experiencing a resurgence due to the revival of tourism in Thailand.

Mr Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha and his family, who are in control of the company, saw a transition from a net loss of 2.5 billion baht to a net profit of 2.2 billion baht ($64 million) in the previous year.

Additionally, their revenue skyrocketed by 59% to 27.5 billion baht, as indicated in a regulatory report.

This sudden surge led to a significant increase in Mr Aiyawatt’s wealth, which is jointly held with his family, growing over two-fold to $3.5 billion and landing him in the No. 8 position.

King Power International operates 11 duty-free stores in airports and tourist hotspots throughout Thailand. In March, the firm declared its intention to launch two new outlets, one in Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, and the other in the central business district of the city.

King Power Mahanakhon, a mixed-use skyscraper in Bangkok which houses a Standard hotel and the highest observation deck in Thailand, is another family investment poised to gain from the tourism boost.

The 78-story building, touted as the tallest in the country, was reportedly bought for 14 billion baht in 2018, a few months prior to the tragic helicopter crash that took the life of Mr Aiyawatt’s father, Mr Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

The forecast for the hotel sector looks promising, according to analysts.

Mr Rathawat Kuvijitrsuwan, a senior vice president of advisory and asset management at JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group based in Bangkok, mentioned in a May report: “We expect 4Q 2023 to be the first real high season in Bangkok after three years of pandemic.”

In February, Mr Aiyawatt reinforced the family’s commitment to Leicester City Football Club (LCFC), by transforming more than £194 million ($239 million) of loans to the club into equity. It marked the second such strategic decision by the family.

In 2013, three years post the purchase of the English football club, the late Mr Vichai converted a £103 million loan into equity.

This decision yielded fruitful results when the team, also known as “the Foxes,” secured the Premier League championship in May 2016. However, the team was relegated to the Championship League the previous month.

Mr Aiyawatt, fondly known as “Top,” holds the position of CEO at King Power Group, the family-owned holding company founded by his father, while his mother serves as the chairwoman. Mr Aiyawatt assumed the role of chairman at LCFC, succeeding his father.