Science & Technology

Tourism drives the expansion of Chinese mobile-payment apps

The usage rate of mobile payments by Chinese tourists while abroad climbed to 69%

Tourism drives the expansion of Chinese mobile-payment apps. Source:

The report by U.S. research firm Nielsen and mobile-payments app Alipay shows that Chinese consumers increasingly vacation overseas using their familiar payment apps abroad. And, according to the report, it doesn’t benefit only consumers. More than half of the businesses surveyed saw an increase in both the foot traffic in their stores and the size of transactions made by Chinese travelers after they adopted Alipay.

For the 2018 Trends for Mobile Payment in Chinese Outbound Tourism report, Nielsen surveyed about 2,800 Chinese tourists who had traveled outside the country in the past year and plan to do so again in the coming 12 months. In addition, the company interviewed 1,244 merchants at tourist attractions in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand – popular destinations for Chinese vacationers – to see how the adoption of mobile payments has benefited them. This was the first year that the annual survey included merchants’ adoption of mobile payments in addition to their use by Chinese consumers.

Nielsen found that Millennials and consumers in second-tier cities – think Hangzhou and Chongqing rather than Beijing or Shanghai – drove much of the growth behind the 140 million outbound trips by Chinese tourists last year, an increase of 13.5% year-over-year. They’re traveling to a range of places, from Japan and South Korea in Asia to Europe and the U.S. They’re also spending more – on shopping, accommodation and food – and increasingly using apps such as Alipay to pay for them compared to 2017.

Meanwhile, the usage rate of mobile payments by Chinese tourists while abroad climbed to 69% of those surveyed, up from 65% in 2017. At the same time, the use of cash and bank cards declined to 85% and 75%, respectively, from 90% and 82%. On their most recent overseas trip, these travelers paid for 32% of transactions with mobile phones, overtaking cash – which was used only 30% of the time – for the first time.

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