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Report: 2018 trends in Chinese mobile payments abroad

Travelling abroad is no longer a luxury for many Chinese citizens as they are now enjoying rising incomes and better living standards. According to the latest statistics from the China Tourism Academy, Chinese tourists made 140 million outbound trips in 2018, up 13.5 percentage points year-on-year.

This robust growth gave rise to a new barometer with which to gauge China’s economy and its ever-changing consumer market, especially in regard to heated discussions on whether Chinese consumption is upgrading or downgrading, a topic that have made headlines across China in 2018.

Based on a survey of 2,800-plus outbound Chinese tourists, this report represents the latest trends and consumption habits of these travellers in overseas markets. It covers a variety of perspectives including the number of foreign countries visited, tourists’ consumption amounts and habits in overseas destinations, and their evolving demands.

Overseas usage of Chinese mobile payments

This survey also provides an alternative lens for observing China’s consumer and tourism market. It goes without saying that Chinese tourists’ consumption and spending habits overseas are evolving and up-scaling.

This is reflected in their changing preferences towards increasingly diverse and exotic destinations, as well as their focus on high-quality products and experiences. This has driven the Chinese mobile payment sector to go global.

In response to customer demand, Chinese mobile payment brands, represented by Alipay, have moved beyond the initial hurdles and are now experiencing vigorous growth. On the one hand, Chinese mobile payment providers are extending their service offerings for Chinese consumers; on the other hand, they are developing their businesses into overseas markets, where merchants, big or small, can benefit from adopting their services.

Overseas usage of Chinese mobile payments 1

The release of the 2017 Outbound Chinese Tourism and Consumption Trends whitepaper marked the start of a comprehensive study, from a consumer perspective, of Chinese mobile payment systems in international destinations frequented by Chinese tourists. This has generated ongoing interest, research and insight among industry stakeholders, observers and others.

Drawing on this research, Nielsen and Alipay have jointly issued a report titled 2018 Trends for Mobile Payment in Chinese Outbound Tourism. The whitepaper provides a perspective on mobile payment use cases and the developments in outbound tourism consumption by Chinese tourists.

It also examines local merchants’ attitudes to and outlook on Chinese mobile payment services. The paper also offers a rare window into understanding the impact that Chinese mobile payment solution has on local businesses, capturing the benefits that local businesses experience after connecting to Chinese mobile payment, as well as their outlook on future developments and challenges.

The participants in this survey are categorised into two groups. The first group comprises Chinese tourists who traveled overseas in 2018 and plan to travel abroad again in the coming year. This group includes 2,806 residents between the ages of 20 and 50 years who live in China’s first, second and third tier cities.

The other group consists of 1,244 merchants at popular attractions frequented by Chinese tourists in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The survey also involved face-to-face interviews and in-depth conversations with nine merchants in these three countries.

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