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Middle-aged Chinese tourists lead use of mobile payments abroad during Lunar New Year holiday



Middle-aged Chinese travellers were the country’s biggest spenders abroad during the recent Lunar New Year holiday, as these older tourists led the use of mobile payments to go shopping overseas, according to an Alipay study.

That finding, drawn from the more than 40 markets where Alipay is accepted, covered two groups who used the popular mobile payments platform: those born in the period 1960 to 1969 and 1970 to 1979.

They were “the main driving force in outbound tourism and overseas consumption”, according to the report from Alipay, a unit of Ant Financial Services. Hangzhou-based Ant Financial is an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

Outbound travellers from China’s lower-tier cities also made more purchases through Alipay than those from top-tier cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the Alipay report said.

“We are excited to see the robust growth in the use of Alipay by overseas travellers from third- and fourth-tier cities, and middle-aged vacationers,” said Janice Chen, the head of business operations at Alipay’s cross-border unit. “This really highlights how mobile payment is taking root in China’s outbound tourism market.”

It also showed how China’s growing middle class has become more affluent, helping increase the adoption of mobile payments by both millennial and older tourists, according to a report jointly released last month by Alipay and global data analytics firm Nielsen.

This … highlights how mobile payment is taking root in China’s outbound tourism market

Janice Chen, Alipay

Alipay’s findings reinforce China’s global leadership in mobile payments. The world’s second-largest economy and biggest smartphone market had an estimated 890 million people using mobile payments last year, with a 92.4 per cent penetration rate among internet users, according to a report on China’s third-party mobile payments market by research firm Ipsos.

This vast mobile payments market is dominated by two players: Alibaba-backed Alipay, which has more than 1 billion active users around the globe, and Tencent Holdings’ WeChat Pay, which has more than 900 million monthly active users. Tencent’s ubiquitous messaging platform and social network WeChat – known as Weixin on the mainland – has more than 1 billion users worldwide.

Both platforms have been credited with helping drive China’s move towards a cashless society, in which hundreds of millions of merchants and users conduct mobile transactions for everything from groceries to meals and transport to entertainment.

“While providing a better experience for Chinese travellers, Alipay is at the same time a huge drawcard for overseas merchants as a platform to help grow their business,” Chen said.

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For example, nearly 60 per cent of merchants surveyed in the Nielsen study covering popular areas frequented by Chinese tourists in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand adopted Alipay and experienced growth in both foot traffic and revenue.

Alipay and WeChat Pay have, in recent years, made a concerted push to international expansion, following the growth of Chinese outbound tourism. In particular, they have targeted merchants across Southeast Asia and Europe.

The two online payments platforms allow Chinese tourists to pay for their overseas shopping directly within the Alipay and WeChat apps, with purchases settled in yuan. Use of credit cards, by comparison, typically incur foreign transaction fees.

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Total transactions on WeChat Pay reached 1.24 billion during the Lunar New Year holiday from February 4 to 9, according to data released by the Tencent-owned mobile payment system.

It said France entered the top 10 foreign countries with the biggest spending volume on WeChat Pay for the first time, reflecting the system’s growing adoption in Europe. Hong Kong, Macau and Bangkok, however, remain the top three favourite overseas destinations for Chinese tourists who use WeChat Pay.





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