Things are about to get easier for Chinese travelers looking to enjoy tax refund services in Singapore. One of the main tax refund companies operating in the country is rolling out instant tax refund services processed through Alipay in a move that is likely to make tax refund easier than ever for Chinese tourists visiting the city-state.

Global Tax Free, a South Korean tax refund company established in 2005, launched its services in Singapore back in 2014 after being awarded appropriate licenses to become a “Central Refund Agent.” Singapore, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia with 16.4 million visitors in 2016, is a competitive market where Global Tax Free is up against global tax-free giants such as Global Blue and Premier Tax Free, as well as recent entrant Tourego (途鹅)—a “paperless” tax refund company.

According to Global Tax Free, its tax-free network covers all 2000 brands and merchants in Singapore that are part of the Electronic Tourists Refund Scheme (eTRS)—a government scheme that centralizes tax refunds in Singapore on a single platform that tax refund companies can tap into. In other words, the same restrictions apply for Alipay through Global Tax Free as for any other tax refund company operating in Singapore.

No additional restrictions will apply for tax refunds through Alipay

Global Tax Free promises that its Alipay tax refund service will prove both quick and easy to use for customers, with short processing time promoted as one of the key benefits compared to its competition. According to the company, customers looking to use its Alipay tax refund will use Singapore’s eTRS kiosks as usual before proceeding to a refund counter where they produce an Alipay QR code and confirm Alipay account details. When all said and done, the user receives a notification in Alipay and the tax refund is processed immediately.

The partnership with Alipay may prove a boon for Global Tax Free in the Singaporean market, which received some 2.86 million Chinese visitors who spent over S$3.52 billion (US$2.69 billion) in 2016.  Now Singapore’s second-largest tourism market in terms of arrivals, and the largest in terms of spending, Chinese tourists are central to the tax refund industry in Singapore. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) also welcomed the move, which may help boost Chinese tourist spending in Singapore even further.

The move could spur Chinese tourist spending in Singapore even further

The move is also welcomed by Alipay, which is aggressively trying to court China’s big-spending travelers. In its battle against Tencent’s WeChat Pay, Alipay has expanded throughout international destinations, airports, and airlines to make sure it’s an easily accessible payment option for Chinese consumers—wherever they are. “The new tax refund service is a natural extension of our offering as a smart lifestyle platform for consumers and Chinese travelers. Alipay’s ecosystem of merchants covers shopping, dining, attraction, transportation, and entertainment,” Cherry Huang, general manager, Cross-border Business for South and Southeast Asia, Alipay, said in a press statement. “By including tax refunds, we are able to offer greater convenience and better shopping experience to Chinese travelers.”

In response to the growth of Chinese travel and the prevalence of mobile payments in the Chinese market, tax refund looks set to become a key area for the expanding battle for a slice of Chinese tourist spending as well as the Alibaba – Tencent battle for Chinese consumers’ payments. Last year, Premier Tax Free teamed up with WeChat Pay in the United Kingdom, and Global Blue launched WeChat Pay instant tax refunds at Madrid airport. Where next?


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