Ant Group Boosts China Tourism Spending During Chinese New Year

Ant Group’s data reveals a strong resurgence in consumer spending during the first post-pandemic Chinese New Year (CNY) travel season, with a notable boost in cross-border tourism. Leveraging Alipay’s cross-border mobile payment technology, Chinese travelers enjoyed seamless transactions at over 8 million merchants in 70 countries and regions, eliminating the need for currency exchange or cash. Alipay’s features include in-app instant tax refunds and competitive exchange rates.

A global campaign launched on the Alipay+ merchant network in December 2023 successfully attracted Chinese tourists, as evidenced by the CNY holiday week’s performance from February 9th to 12th. Overseas transactions by Alipay users surpassed 2019 levels by 7%, and consumer spending rebounded to 82% of 2019, representing a 2.4-fold increase from 2023.

Key factors contributing to the cross-border travel surge include strengthened socio-economic ties between Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR, and the Chinese Mainland, new visa-free policies in major Southeast Asian destinations, and the recovery of international flight capacities. Traditional Asian favorites like Hong Kong SAR, Japan, and Thailand remain popular, but more distant destinations in Europe, ANZ, the Middle East, and North America are witnessing increased Chinese traveler spending.

The top destinations for Chinese travelers, based on Alipay spending, include Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Macao SAR, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, France, Australia, and Canada. Notably, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore experienced a 7.5% increase over 2019 and a remarkable 580% surge over 2023, with Thailand leading in total volume and Malaysia showing the most significant increase.

Beyond geographical preferences, Chinese tourists are diversifying their interests, shifting from traditional activities to more immersive local experiences. During the CNY week, Chinese tourists spent 70% more on food and beverage than in 2019, exploring both downtown hotspots and off-the-beaten-path local treasures.

The trend towards “traveling local” has contributed to a substantial increase in in-town transportation volume. Alipay users in various destinations can now access a range of transportation options, including rail, taxi, rideshare, car rental, bus, subway, and scooter-share, all within the familiar Alipay app. The cost per ride for Alipay travelers has dropped by 60% compared to 2019, benefiting local SMEs in the public transport network.

Back home, Alipay introduced significant AI features in its 2024 online holiday celebrations, marking the first widespread adoption of AI during the Chinese New Year. The app’s AI features garnered 600 million user interactions during the Five Fortune campaign, with over 12 million users creating personalized digital red packets using AI voice and video generation technology.

Consumer enthusiasm during the Chinese New Year was further fueled by popular culture trends, as seen in the bustling spending along Huanghe Road in downtown Shanghai, featured in a hit TV series. Restaurants along this iconic road experienced an 800% year-on-year increase in transaction volume for the 2024 Chinese New Year Eve dinners, with reservations fully booked a week before the festival. Social media played a significant role in driving an unexpected influx of Chinese and international visitors to snow-clad cities like Harbin and Shenyang.

The celebration of Chinese New Year across Asian communities saw increased cross-border spending on Alipay+-powered e-wallets, with a year-on-year increase of 252%. Daily average transactions also surged by 304%. Japan, South Korea, Macao SAR, Thailand, and Singapore emerged as the top 5 destinations for Alipay+ consumers outside the Chinese mainland.

International e-wallets and card-enabled Alipay accounts experienced significant expansion in the Chinese mainland. Since September 2023, Alipay+ has supported 10 leading e-wallets and payment apps in Asia, providing their users access to Alipay’s extensive merchant network in China. Collaboration with major international card providers such as Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover®, and Diners Club International® was also expanded. During CNY 2024, international travelers to China spent 500% more on their international card-enabled Alipay accounts at merchants in the Chinese mainland compared to 2023. Popular use cases for international visitors included Chinese restaurants, tourist attractions, and public transportation.

Douglas Feagin, Senior Vice President of Ant Group and Head of Alipay+, emphasized the growing importance of mobile payment across age and income groups, foreseeing continued growth through partnerships with industry leaders, national tourist agencies, and merchants in 2024.

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