Kek Lok Si in Penang, Malaysia. Photo: Shutterstock

Yet another destination is partnering with Tencent to promote tourism. This time, it’s Malaysia’s destination marketing organization (DMO), Tourism Malaysia, who is launching, “Malaysia Smart Tourism 4.0 Powered by Tencent,” a new digital-oriented tourism initiative that will include the launch of a “digital tourism ecosystem.” However, representatives from Tourism Malaysia and Tencent were vague about the specifics of the initiative and the forthcoming digital ecosystem.

It’s still unclear what this new “digital ecosystem” will do

With this move, Malaysia joins other destinations partnering with Tencent. These include cities like Washington D.C., Sydney, London, and Dubai launching “CityExperience Mini Programs” and the Canadian province of British Columbia, which signed a promotional agreement with Tencent.

While Tencent is ostensibly a tech company, it has established itself as a key player in the outbound Chinese travel market, in large part because of the company’s social media and messaging platform, WeChat. However, the company’s popular mobile payments platform, WeChat Pay, has also become a vital facet of the outbound travel market and tourism has become an essential front in Tencent’s ongoing competition with Alibaba’s Alipay.

Tencent has become a key player in the outbound Chinese tourism market by virtue of its social media and mobile payments prowess

The Malaysian Smart Tourism 4.0 initiative is the first step in a 10-year “tourism road-map” for the country. Without clear details on what the digital ecosystem will look like, it is unknown how the platform will operate in practice. However, the stated goal is to facilitate the implementation of digital technologies in Malaysian tourism businesses to drive Chinese tourism to the country.

It can also be reasonably assumed that the initiative will include efforts to expand adoption of WeChat Pay, Tencent’s mobile payment platform. It was announced that the platform would fully launch in Malaysia back in November, and represented a significant milestone for Tencent.

While WeChat Pay is available in many destinations around the world, Malaysia is the first country outside of China with WeChat Pay available for those without a Chinese bank account. However, Malaysia is not the first “overseas” destination to adopt WeChat Pay fully, as the service is fully available in Hong Kong.

Chinese tourism to Malaysia has been on the rise in recent years, but growth has slowed down substantially. The Southeast Asian country attracted 2,281,666 Chinese arrivals last year, up from 2,124,942 in 2016.