Alipay partners with UATP

Updated: 2013-11-06 05:39

By CHANG JUN in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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Alipay, a leading third-party online payment service that has half of the online payment market in China and is affiliated with e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced on Nov 5 that it will join forces with Universal Air Travel Plan (UATP) to better serve China's outbound travelers.

UATP, an airline-owned US payment solution accepted by thousands of vendors in the travel industry, jointly announced the partnership with Alipay at the two-day Airline/Travel Payment & Fraud Summit in Chicago.

Alipay partners with UATP

Jingming Li, vice-president and chief architect of Alipay International. Photo by Chang Jun / China Daily

UATP is making a major step forward in tapping into the world's top-spending travel market through this collaboration, said Jingming Li, vice-president and chief architect of Alipay International.

Meanwhile, Alipay will gain access to the many existing resources of airlines, restaurants, hotels, car rental companies and travel agencies on UATP's list, and hopes to better serve its 800 million users through this collaboration. Chinese consumers will be able to book and pay for their overseas travels in an easier, safer and more convenient way, Li said.

According to Jingming, affluent travelers have been inconvenienced "when they go to a foreign country and find out about the limited transaction methods they can use, the limited credit lines available from the China-issued credit cards they carry. It's nothing but annoying and there must be a change".

China has been the fastest-growing source of tourists in the world for the past 10 years, and now is the world's top tourism spender. China's increasingly well-off middle- and upper-class made 83 million international trips in 2012, the World Tourism Association (WTA) reported.

These deep-pocketed Chinese travelers spent $102 billion last year, surpassing US and German travelers, who spent $84 billion each, the WTA said.

The Canada-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts 34 million more Chinese will take overseas trips in 2016, bringing the total number of international travelers from China to 117 million.

"This is a market no industry player can afford to miss. This is a win-win situation and we [Alipay and UATP] clicked with each other in no time," said Li, adding that it took the two sides only three months to hammer out a deal.

Established in Washington DC in 1936, UATP keeps expanding its business worldwide by providing airlines-owned payment solutions. Its network includes more than 250 airlines, all the major rail carriers in the US and Europe, and many of the world's top travel agencies, including more than 30,000 Airline Reporting Corporation-accredited agencies.

Three major US airlines — Delta, American, and United, which operate about 50 non-stop flights between China and the US weekly — are UATP members. "There is no doubt that this new partnership will benefit these airlines tremendously," said Jingming.

With minimal changes to their existing backend systems, international airlines, hotels and other travel companies can now, under the new framework, easily access the 800 million plus Alipay account holders via the UATP Network.

"The most widely used online payment platform in China since 2004, Alipay is excited to help US businesses better serve Chinese consumers," said Li. "We are dedicated to meeting the needs of our clients when they travel abroad. We will make it easier for them when they pay for air tickets, book hotels, rent cars and purchase online through working with UATP."

Ralph Kaiser, president and CEO of UATP, called the partnership a "mutually beneficial opportunity" and predicted that further growth in China's outbound travel was inevitable.

"Matching the strength of the UATP Network with Alipay's proven success, we are confident that we can bring the best that both companies have to offer to this booming market," said Kaiser.

Alipay, a key unit in the Alibaba family, partners with 180 financial institutions and supporting transactions in 16 currencies.