South-east Asia scoops up Golden Week tourists from China

A cafe customer making a purchase using mobile wallet Alipay in Singapore. The Republic was the sixth-most popular destination for users of the Chinese e-payment app during Golden Week in 2019, as South-east Asian retailers gained popularity with tourists from mainland China.
OCTOBER 09, 2019 - 3:13 PM

SOUTH-EAST Asian stores are becoming more popular with tourists from mainland China during Golden Week festivities, according to Chinese e-wallet provider Alipay.

Asean made up half of the top 10 destinations by transaction volume, during the week-long holiday that began with China’s National Day on Oct 1, compared with three in the year before. Newcomers Cambodia and the Philippines have joined Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore as leading Golden Week markets for users of the Chinese payment app.

As for the overall number of transactions done over Alipay, Japan pipped Thailand for pole position, with South Korea in third place. Malaysia was fourth and Singapore sixth, while the Philippines came in seventh place and Cambodia ranked ninth.

More than 300,000 merchants across 55 markets took part in Alipay’s Golden Week campaign in 2019, the company said. But Alipay, which is run by e-commerce tycoon Jack Ma’s Ant Financial Services, did not disclose exactly how many transactions were made with the app.

Alipay use jumped in emerging markets, as vendors in the Philippines reported 26 times the number of transactions on the year prior, which Alipay attributed to a mass roll-out of the platform to local merchants. In Laos, transactions were up by four and a half times year on year.

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Alipay has been building up its merchant network in the Philippines since 2017 as the archipelago’s popularity picked up among Chinese tourists, Cherry Huang, Alipay’s general manager for cross-border business in South and South-east Asia, told AseanBusiness.

“To date, we have seen huge growth in the merchant network and the number of participating merchants has tripled compared to last October, covering a variety of sectors - retail, hospitality and entertainment attractions,” said Ms Huang. Besides the capital of Manila, Alipay is also accepted in more than half a dozen other tourist hot spots, such as Cebu, Davao and Boracay.

Yet the spend in South-east Asia may still trend lower than in other destination markets: Japan, which had the most transactions on Alipay for Golden Week this year, beat out second-placed Thailand by 28 per cent - but average spending per user was a whopping 85 per cent higher.

The Asean boom came even as China’s economic slowdown and softer yuan took their toll on Golden Week consumer sentiment.

There was a 15.1 per cent drop in the number of mainland Chinese residents who went abroad in the first six days of October, according to official data, while retail sales grew by 8.5 per cent over the course of the week - easing from a 9.5 per cent expansion in 2018.