Alipay streamlines travel

Updated: 2013-11-19 08:37

(China Daily USA)

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Alipay streamlines travel

Li Jingming, Vice President of Alipay International, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, and Ralph Kaiser, President, CEO, and Chairman of UATP (Universal Air Travel Plan), a payment network used by most of the world's airlines, after signing collaboration agreement. Charlene Cai / China Daily USA

Alipay, China's biggest third-party online payment service, signed a strategic contract on Monday with Universal Air Travel Plan (UATP), the Washington-based payment solution used by almost every major airline in the world, that will allow Chinese outbound travelers to pay for international airline tickets with the tool they are most used to.

Alipay, which is roughly equivalent to PayPal, is widely popular among China's bourgeoning middle-class — especially the younger generation — with more than 800 million registered accounts.

On Nov 11, the day celebrated satirically by Chinese youth as Singles' Day (as in 11.11) and seized by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant that owns Alipay, to launch anannual online shopping carnival, Alipay recorded total transactions of 35 billion yuan ($5.7 billion), which according to Li Jingming, vice-president of Alipay International, was three times the total sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year in the US.

Alipay's deal with UATP will remove roadblocks for Chinese trying to fly internationally, a procedure that has often been hampered by inconvenient ticket transaction methods in the past. It does not only benefit Alipay with access to many of the world's airlines, hotels and restaurants that are in UATP's list, but also makes the listed companies more accessible to China, which is now the world's largest tourism market.

Alipay streamlines travel
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According to reports by the World Tourism Association (WTA), Chinese tourists made 38 million international trips and spent $102 million in 2012.

According to Li, the rapidlygrowing affluent Chinese middle-class are mostly Alipay members who "want to see the world with their own eyes and enjoy their life through international travels"so the deal will provide "the same trust, security, and convenience presented by Alipay to the merchants and the Chinese consumers".

"We think working together with Alipay will move us a lot further toward an overall goal of not just serving our members here and there, but globally for any airline," said Ralph Kaiser, president, CEO and chairman of the board of UATP.

"We know that China is the world's largest economy from a travel standpoint, so we really think this is going to be a huge opportunity for everyone involved, and we are very excited to start the partnership and try to move it to a broader and deeper relationship," Kaiser said.

Li said there would be transfer fee associated with the procedure, but "our cost is really competitive compared with traditional payment networks".

Establishing a cooperativeframework with UATP is just a first step in Alipay's international plans. Next comes working with specific airlines to help them set up Alipay in their systems.

Deng Xianlai contributed to this story.