Alipay Examines 2018, the Chinese Tourist Class, and Mobile Payments

January 24, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Chinese mobile payments platforms had an amazing run in 2018, driven by a combination of factors that pushed forward the entire market. Recently, Ant Financial—Alipay’s parent company—sent out a report from Nielsen on the state of mobile payments in China as relates to the tourist class, and the revelations contained therein would prove a surprise for anyone who’s been following the market.

Just in the last year, the average number of regions traveled went from just over two to just under three, showing that Chinese are prolific travelers eager for adventure on many fronts. When they go, they’re taking their mobile payments tools with them and hoping that they’ll be accepted when they land.

It’s not a forlorn hope, either, as the Chinese are putting some serious cash behind their desire; the average budget of a Chinese tourist on outbound travel in 2018 was $6,026. In 2019, that’s expected to hit $6,706. In fact, “accepted payment methods” went from the top concern of 2017 to the fourth-highest concern of 2018. The Chinese tourist is now primarily concerned with the quality—uniqueness and / or beauty—of tourist attractions when traveling, cited as a primary factor by 52 percent of respondents.  

The young Chinese—a twenty-something—is leading the way in overall travel, but all walks of life are increasingly enjoying world travel. In 2017, 68 percent of millennial outbound Chinese tourists used mobile payments, while only 55 percent of those born between 1960 and 1979 did likewise. One year later, millennials went to 69 percent, and the older bracket increased to 68 percent.

Basically, one of the biggest reasons we saw so much expansion in the Chinese mobile payments market is that several markets at once expanded. Younger travelers went up slightly, older travelers went up huge, and that’s before the domestic market got in on the action. With over one billion people, it’s no surprise to see numbers climb like this because even comparatively small percentage increases represent sufficient raw numbers to approximate some entire countries.

In the end, the numbers are on the rise, and that means the mobile payments front will continue to rise with it. That’s all thanks to a lot of travelers, and plenty of folks who stayed home.