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China Outbound and Inbound Tourism Spending rebounds on Ant Group's Cross-Border Merchant Networks During Chinese New Year Break

  • Alipay overseas number of transactions surpasses 2019, with HKSAR leading in payment volume as outbound tourism rebounds
  • Top destinations for Chinese travelers are Japan, Southeast Asia, France and Australia
  • Other international e-wallets supported by Alipay+ cross-border mobile payment solutions, as well as international card-enabled Alipay accounts see inbound travel surge to China

Data from Ant Group shows a robust rebound of consumer spending during the first back-to-normal Chinese New Year (CNY) travel season after the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in cross-border tourism.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Singapore's Yue Hwa Department Store welcomes tourists with banners showcasing acceptance of Alipay and other Alipay+ partner e-wallets (Photo: Business Wire)

Singapore's Yue Hwa Department Store welcomes tourists with banners showcasing acceptance of Alipay and other Alipay+ partner e-wallets (Photo: Business Wire)

Robust recovery, diversified destinations and scenarios for outbound Chinese tourists using Alipay

Through the Alipay+ cross-border mobile payment technology solutions, Chinese travelers may pay for goods, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment at over 8 million merchants in over 70 countries and regions, all from their familiar home app Alipay, with no need to change money or carry cash. Alipay also offers in-app instant tax refunds, as well as transparent and competitive exchange rates.

A global campaign has been in full swing on the Alipay+ merchant network since December 2023 to attract Chinese tourists. In the CNY holiday week between February 9th and 12th, the number of transactions made by Alipay users overseas surpassed that of 2019 by 7% while consumer spending recovered to 82% of the 2019 level, or 2.4 times of 2023.

Closer socio-economic connections between Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and the Chinese Mainland, the new visa-free policies from major Southeast Asia destinations and recovering international flight capacities are key enablers of the cross-border travel boom. While traditional Asia favorites keep their enthusiastic following, more distant destinations in Europe, ANZ, the Middle East and North America are also picking up in Chinese traveler spending.

Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Macao SAR, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, France, Australia and Canada are the top destinations for Chinese travelers by their Alipay spending. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore combined saw a 7.5% increase over 2019, and a 580% leap over 2023, with Thailand leading in total volume and Malaysia showing the largest increase.

In addition to a greater geographical footprint, the Chinese globe-trotter is also expanding her interest from traditional activities like shopping and visiting major tourist sites, to more immersive and unique local experience. Globally in the CNY week, Chinese tourists spent 70% more on food and beverage than in 2019, venturing from downtown hotspots to out-of-the-way local treasures.

In-town transportation volume grew fast thanks to a passion to “travel local”. Alipay users in multiple destinations now may choose from rail, taxi, rideshare, car rental, bus, subway and even scooter-share when abroad, all from the familiar app on their own phone. The cost per ride on any vehicle for Alipay travelers dropped by 60% compared to 2019. A lighter carbon footprint also means more local SMEs on the public transport network gain a share of international tourist revenue.

China native: AI, popular culture and social buzz drive consumer enthusiasm

On Alipay’s home front, 2024 is also the first time AI features prominently adopted in online holiday celebration nationwide. AI features in the app drew 600 million user interactions during Alipay’s signature annual Five Fortune campaign. Over 12 million Alipay users created personalized digital red packets using AI voice and video generation technology on the Alipay platform.

Consumer enthusiasm is also fanned by major popular culture trends. Spending soared along Huanghe Road in downtown Shanghai, iconized in a recent hit TV series. Alipay figures show that the 2024 Chinese New Year Eve dinners at restaurants alongside Huanghe Road featured in the popular TV series Blossoms Shanghai were already fully reserved a week before the festival, with transaction volume going up by 800% year-on-year. Tourism businesses in the snow-cladded cities of Harbin and Shenyang in Northeast China were also surprised by an extraordinary influx of Chinese and international visitors thanks to a social media mega-buzz.

Robust intra-Asia flows among Alipay+ partner e-wallets

The Chinese New Year is widely celebrated across Asian communities. With new partnerships in 2023 and increased travel, total cross-border spending on the region’s leading e-wallets powered by Alipay+ increased by 252% year-on-year. Daily average transactions increased by 304%. Japan, South Korea, Macao SAR, Thailand and Singapore are the top 5 most popular destinations for Alipay+ consumers besides the Chinese mainland.

International e-wallets and cards-enabled Alipay accounts saw multi-fold expansion in the Chinese mainland. Since September 2023, Alipay + has supported 10 leading e-wallets and payment apps in Asia to serve their roaming users across Alipay’s 80-million-strong merchant network in China. Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover®, and Diners Club International® also expanded their collaboration with Alipay for travelers linking their international credit or debit card to their Alipay e-wallet. During CNY 2024, international travelers to China spent 500% more on their international card-enabled Alipay accounts at merchants in the Chinese mainland compared to 2023. Chinese restaurants, tourist attractions and public transportation are the most popular use cases for international visitors traveling in China and experiencing the festival.

"With its use spreading across age and income groups, mobile payment is becoming an increasingly important promoter of local and cross-border commerce in Asia and beyond," said Douglas Feagin, Senior Vice President of Ant Group and Head of Alipay+. "We expect to grow our partnerships with the payment industry leaders, national tourist agencies and merchants in 2024 to generate more growth."

About Alipay

In the digital era, Alipay has evolved from a trusted payment tool to an open platform that connects businesses, institutions, service providers, and other partners with consumers. Alipay enables partners from various industries to offer safe and convenient payment options. It also enables partners to communicate and deliver different digital services to their customers in China through Alipay mini programs, lifestyle accounts and other tools. The Alipay platform has connected over 80 million businesses with more than one billion consumers.

About Alipay+

Alipay+ offers unified global mobile payment and marketing solutions that connect merchants with multiple e-wallets and payment methods from different countries and regions by collaborating with global partners. Consumers can conveniently use their preferred local payment methods while transacting seamlessly in a different market and be able to enjoy marketing solutions offered by the merchants through Alipay+. Alipay+ is developed by Ant Group, the owner and operator of Alipay, one of the world’s leading digital open platforms.


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