by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | April 24, 2018

Cheryl-Anne Sturkendigital paymentAs tourism from China continues to surge, so too has the number of hotels adding mobile payment options such as WeChat Pay and Alipay, the two most popular providers of the technology in China, where the digital economy is booming.

According to an April 2017 report released by the U.N.-based Better Than Cash Alliance, digital network payments in China in 2016 almost topped US$3 trillion, “a 20-fold increase in four years.”

Also in 2016, U.K.- based InterContinental Hotels Group became the first global hotel company to allow travelers to use Alipay through all of its online and mobile channels at more than 270 properties in Greater China, as well as a number of hotels around the world that participate in the company's China Ready Programme. Created to target the Chinese traveler, the program, officially known as Zhou Dao, offers a host of tailor-made services such as Chinese-speaking staff, Chinese-only television channels and a variety of Chinese F&B menu options.

In August 2017, IHG decided to expand its Alipay option and in the last several months has begun a global rollout of the service.

Caesars Entertainment, which began piloting WeChat Pay at Caesars Palace in August 2017, said it plans to offer the online payment system across its entire portfolio of 50 casinos in 13 states by year-end 2019. And even more hotel companies and individual properties are jumping on the trend.

Earlier this month, London-based Millennium Hotels & Resorts said it would offer Alipay at its hotels in major cities in the U.S. “Following the success of Alipay at Millennium Hotels and Resorts in Asia, we are pleased to partner with the digital payment platform again to launch the service in New York, Boston and Los Angeles in an effort to make the travel experience as seamless as possible for guests,” said Howard Wu, President, North America, and chief technology officer of the hotel chain in a statement. “As a hospitality brand, we are always looking for ways to enhance the overall guest experience, and expect Alipay to be well received by Chinese travelers visiting key markets in the United States.”

Los Angeles-based boutique brand Luxe Hotels also recently added both Alipay and WeChat through a partnership with Citcon, the Silicon Valley-based cross-border mobile payment solution provider, at two of its three properties, the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel and Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel.

This past February, New York City-based global marketing and research firm Nielsen released the findings of its Outbound Chinese Tourism and Consumption 2017 Survey, which found that 65 percent of Chinese travelers use mobile payment platforms, compared to 11 percent of non-Chinese travelers. In addition, 90 percent of the over 2,000 Chinese travelers surveyed said they would consider using mobile payments when traveling overseas if more merchants offered it.

According to the 2017 Global Tourism: Making Waves in Asia report by Asian investment firm CLSA, some 200 million Chinese tourists are projected to travel internationally by 2020, and they will spend over US$429 billion, 35 percent of which will be on luxury items such as hotel stays, dining and retail.