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As the world focused on Beijing’s elaborate 70th anniversary celebrations, 7.5 million Chinese skipped the fanfare and spent Golden Week travelling abroad.

Amid the dizzying array of travel statistics, one point is clear; overseas spending on Alipay, China’s leading mobile payment platform, continues to explode. In-store transaction volume grew 110 percent across 300,000 merchants compared to 2018 with 1 million Alipay e-gift packets collected between October 1 and 4. The growth is the product of Alipay’s Golden Week campaign which saw the company court DMOs, retailers, and cultural hubs.

Although the task of attracting Chinese visitors to a country is beyond the remit of museums and cultural institutions, catering to the world’s most numerous, and lucrative, travel market by facilitating mobile payment is essential. This is particularly true over Chinese holidays, which stand as opportunities to capitalize on an increase in Chinese foot traffic and demonstrate cultural understanding.

One beneficiary of Alipay’s push was Portugal which saw a 64-fold increase in payment transaction volume over the week-long vacation. The Hangzhou-based technology company partnered with Portuguese Commercial Bank in November (granting access to 65,000 merchants) and then with Portuguese payment platform Pagaqui in June. The moves allow the easy use of QR code payments for Chinese travelers in the western European country across a range of locations including the country’s airports, retailer Worten, and boutique Portuguese chocolatier Arcádia.

Another destination that successfully tapped into Alipay over Golden Week was L.A. — driven on by its forward-thinking DMO, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Peterson Automotive Museum, and Beverly Center all launched special promotions for Chinese travelers ranging from ticket specials to merchandise discounts.

Despite Alipay’s successes, this year saw fewer overseas Golden Week trips with a weakening yuan and the special National Day celebrations on October 1 playing a role. Regional Asian destinations already receive a majority of outbound Chinese tourists and if this dip continues across other holidays cashing in on those who board long-haul flights to Europe and America will grow in importance for Western DMOs and its cultural attractions.

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