Canadian telecom company TELUS Communications Inc. is looking to capitalize on increased Chinese tourism to North America by partnering with Tencent to offer travel SIM cards that work through the online sales giant’s popular Chinese social media site, WeChat. The new collaboration should give Chinese travelers greater access to mobile data and improve their travel experience in both the U.S. and Canada.
China Telecom and China Unicom already offer international plans, but they are often costly for those who don’t travel much. Unicom announced last month that it would cut international roaming fees for calls and data by as much as 97 percent (46 percent on average), and last year, China Telecom partnered with the U.K. carrier BT Group to offer service via a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) called CMLink. Tencent already offers SIM cards to other destinations through their WeChat Go mini-program thanks to partnerships with local carriers in those countries—a list that includes Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Europe.
TELUS announced on Thursday that it has partnered with Tencent to launch two SIM cards: the WeChat Go North America and WeChat Go Canada SIM cards for travelers, each of which will provide 4G LTE coverage across North America. The former is already available for $32.75 (RMB 225) and comes with 5 GB of data for 15 days plus unlimited data through the WeChat Go mini-program. The SIM for Canada will be available starting in November—it will come with 3 GB of data, unlimited use of WeChat Go, and 100 minutes of Canadian voice calls, 50 minutes of China voice calls and unlimited SMS.
According to the press release, “The cards work with the WeChat Go mini-program and allow users access to usage information, top-ups, and billing options.” It will also offer users complimentary access to the Chinese streaming service Lingcod TV.
The SIM cards will be available before traveling to North America at numerous outlets including Hainan Airlines, JD.com, Tmall, and Taobao. The product also offers support in Mandarin via WeChat.
More than 3.5 million Chinese tourists visited Canada and the United States in 2016. While Chinese tourism to Canada has reportedly increased this year, it has decreased in the U.S., though the National Tourism & Trade Office has not released any official data. ForwardKeys, an independent data company, forecasted in a report released last March that group travel to the U.S. should fall 34.4 percent year-on-year from August to September.