Melbourne eyes one billion Chinese visitors, partnering with Alibaba to launch geotargeted tool on AliPay

Tourists take photos at the bathing boxes on Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge, Getty Images)
  • The City of Melbourne has launched a new tourist charm offensive, partnering with Chinese payment service AliPay to provide its estimated 1 billion users with an interactive map of the city.
  • Chinese tourists will be directed from Melbourne Airport towards hotspots including the Yarra River, Collins Street, Lonsdale Street, Docklands, and Melbourne’s Chinatown.
  • The innovation is the latest development in the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry for tourist dollars and comes just months after Sydney piloted a similar program in February, which saw AliPay payments increase by 20%.

The City of Melbourne has unveiled its plans to cash in on the lucrative Chinese tourism market, by partnering with one of the country’s most dominant payment companies AliPay.

Boasting an estimated 1 billion users, the Alibaba-owned payments service will launch an interactive map that will showcase Melbourne hotspots and retailers. The geotargeted tool will offer visitors discounts and coupons to shop at local businesses.

“Melbourne is a key tourist destination for Chinese visitors and the Melbourne City Card will offer them greater convenience and help them feel more welcome as they explore our city,” City of Melbourne small business and retail councillor Susan Riley said in a media release issued to Business Insider Australia.

How the AliPay tool looks like to Chinese users (Supplied)

AliPay arrived in Australia in late 2018, partnering with some of the country’s largest banks, and has reportedly been eyeing further expansion ever since.

The promotion will only include merchants who accept AliPay and marks a strategic part of the Chinese company’s expansion into Australia. According to an AliPay spokesperson, there are already tens of thousands of AliPay merchants in Australia.

With a Nielsen survey finding more than 90% of Chinese tourists want to use a mobile payment app overseas, the growing adoption of AliPay in Australia is only likely to pick up, according to payment technology company Worldpay.

“For Australian businesses seeking to serve Chinese consumers, it’s about recognising and adapting to an entirely different set of expectations, and understanding that above all else, apps like Alipay and WeChat Pay represent a lifestyle choice for Chinese consumers and can help dictate the retailers they shop at and the brands they interact with whilst visiting,” commercial vice-president Alison Morris told Business Insider Australia.

“Australian businesses need to adapt to the expectations of these visitors and match the ways they want to pay, in order to win over Chinese consumers.”

AliPay will also promote Melbourne as a travel destination in China and comes just months after Sydney launched a similar pilot program that resulted in a 20% increase in AliPay payments, according to Australia and New Zealand AliPay manager George Lawson.

“We have already seen from the success of the city card pilot in Sydney that this is a highly effective method of engaging with Chinese visitors both before and during their holidays. This partnership will further enhance Melbourne’s reputation as a fantastic tourist destination, and provide the best possible experience for Chinese visitors,” Lawson said.

The competition between Australian cities is unsurprising given the lucrative nature of the growing Chinese tourism market.

In the year to April 2019, 1.4 million Chinese visited Australia spending $11.9 billion — almost 10% more than the previous year, according to Tourism Australia. Of those, almost 750,000 tourists visited Sydney while 670,000 visited Melbourne.

As domestic retail spending in Australia remains soft, businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on the Chinese market.

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