The global tourism industry is no longer asking “why” when talking about mobile payments. With Nielsen’s research on outbound Chinese tourism and consumption trends showing that 90 percent of Chinese tourists are more willing to spend money when Alipay is accepted, no overseas retailer reliant on Chinese travelers should underestimate the value of such mobile payment options. Given this, it may only become a question of how far beyond simply making a purchase these apps will expand in the future.
Most importantly for international destinations is the connection to cross-border commerce, as the mobile payments can make overseas travel easier. While duty-free retailers have been at the forefront of Chinese mobile payment acceptance, cross-border payments have found growing popularity at retail outlets in tourist destinations frequented by Chinese travelers. But not all of those retailers are known prior to tourists’ arrivals — they still need to communicate with potential customers in advance of their travels.
In many cases, destinations that accept mobile payments like Alipay and WeChat Pay have found greater success in growing tourist spending, particularly in cities that promote themselves as cashless travel destinations. Avoiding transaction errors with Chinese credit and debit cards, in addition to the nuisance of inflated foreign transaction fees, has led to more travelers opting for these mobile payment options. And those very same tourists may be willing to spend more than their fellow travelers who have to exchange cash and incur additional fees.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences published its “Tourism Green Paper: 2018-2019 Analysis and Forecast of China’s Tourism Development” on January 9th, and the report noted the prevalence of mobile payments in relation to tourism, not only in China but overseas as well.
The paper states that mobile payment development is connected to China’s tourism industry upgrades, which is part of the government’s domestic consumption upgrade plans. The payment options can enhance travelers’ experience at attractions, with advance purchases leading to smoother and less crowded entrance. However, if those same attractions inform visitors who have purchased tickets of the wait times, travelers could better plan their visits.
The green paper also recognizes the consumption ecosystem that such technological developments bring to the tourism industry as an online-to-offline retail resource. It mentions the connection not only to retailers but also to social media and messaging platforms to keep travelers informed. And while the connection is more obvious in China, destinations and attractions abroad can utilize these services to cater to Chinese tourists, just as some have launched WeChat mini-programs to drive local sales and tourism.
While much of the connection between information and mobile payments has not yet been developed, the green paper encourages expanding what it calls the “consumer chain.” The question, then, becomes whether companies abroad will leverage the Chinese consumer chain to provide greater information for travelers and encourage them to spend more money while on vacation. That is the hope.