Ali­pay likely to boost Chinese tourism

Otago Daily Times - - Business & Money - TRACEY ROXBURGH

CHRISTCHURCH In­ter­na­tional Air­port is un­der­writ­ing a game­chang­ing South Is­land project which aims to boost Chinese tourist num­bers and in­crease their vis­i­tor spend.

Alibaba project di­rec­tor Ken Freer, of Christchurch, said the air­port had made a ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment’’ to bring Ali­pay, a cash­less mo­bile pay­ment sys­tem, to South Is­land busi­nesses.

The tech­nol­ogy would be rolled out from the mid­dle of next month.

In China, Ali­pay had 520 mil­lion users. By com­par­i­son, only about 15% of the 1.379 bil­lion pop­u­la­tion had credit cards.

The pay­ment sys­tem used an app that al­lowed users to scan a QR code at the point of sale and en­ter the price of the goods be­fore ‘‘ac­cept­ing’’ the pay­ment.

Al­ter­na­tively, busi­nesses can scan a user’s QR code.

Money, in New Zealand dol­lars, was in the mer­chant’s bank ac­count in two days. How­ever, Mr Freer said, the com­pany ex­pected the trans­fer time to drop to 24 hours in the next few months.

The only cost for a busi­ness was a 1.6% mer­chant fee on ev­ery trans­ac­tion.

The app also en­abled busi­nesses to push pro­mo­tional of­fers, while users could re­search des­ti­na­tions to find where Ali­pay was ac­cepted, claim vouch­ers ahead of travel and leave cus­tomer re­views.

Af­ter an in­for­ma­tion ses­sion in Queen­stown yes­ter­day, or­gan­ised in con­junc­tion with the Queen­stown Cham­ber of Com­merce and Des­ti­na­tion Queen­stown, Mr Freer said the sys­tem would help in­crease Chinese ex­pen­di­ture in the South Is­land.

‘‘By us not of­fer­ing that type of pay­ment fa­cil­ity for them here, we’re leav­ing spend on the ta­ble.’’

Mo­bile pay­ments had risen over the past five to 10 years as ‘‘the way of pay­ing’’ in China.

‘‘It’s only nat­u­ral then that be­cause there is such a low

PHOTO: TRACEY ROXBURGH

credit card adop­tion in China, when Chinese trav­ellers look to travel in­ter­na­tion­ally they want to pay us­ing a way that they’re used to at home.’’

De­tailed in­for­ma­tion about the South Is­land Ali­pay transactions would be ac­ces­si­ble by mer­chants, re­gional tourism or­gan­i­sa­tions and other tourism bod­ies, to help them un­der­stand the Chinese mar­ket and cre­ate ef­fi­cien­cies in des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing.

‘‘The great thing about this is we build up a pro­file of who our Chinese guests are in the South Is­land — where they’re go­ing, what they’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and even de­mo­graph­i­cally who they are — that we then use to both help re­fine the mar­ket­ing that we do . . . to tar­get the Chinese cus­tomers that come to New Zealand.’’

To date the air­port had run 20 in­for­ma­tion ses­sions across the South Is­land and Mr Freer an­tic­i­pated up to 1000 busi­nesses would sign up to Ali­pay within a cou­ple of months of the project go­ing live.

‘‘We know that for this to be suc­cess­ful that our Chinese guests need to un­der­stand that Ali­pay is widely ac­cepted in the South Is­land, and to do that we ob­vi­ously have to get a crit­i­cal mass of mer­chants on board, and to do that we need to lower the bar­ri­ers of en­try.

‘‘And that’s why we’ve made it such a sim­ple process for mer­chants.

‘‘It’s a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment on be­half of the air­port, be­cause we know that if we grow the wider econ­omy of the South Is­land then we ben­e­fit as the air­port from that.’’

Christchurch Air­port is lead­ing the coun­try in growth of Chinese vis­i­tor ar­rivals — up 13% for the year. To­tal ar­rivals into New Zealand re­mained flat for the same pe­riod.

That was, in part, due to the part­ner­ship be­tween the air­port and China South­ern Air­lines, which be­gan in De­cem­ber 2015.

The air­line an­nounced last month its di­rect flight from Guangzhou to Christchurch would go daily from De­cem­ber 2 to Fe­bru­ary 28, hav­ing pre­vi­ously an­nounced five flights a week from Oc­to­ber 10.

That meant al­most 12,000 ad­di­tional in­ter­na­tional seats to and from Christchurch over the peak sum­mer sea­son.

Spread­ing the word . . . Alibaba project man­ager Ken Freer, of Christchurch, in Queen­stown yes­ter­day.

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