Uber takes aim at Chinese travellers over Lunar New Year

Uber partners with Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial in cross border payment system

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 February, 2016, 6:24pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 February, 2016, 6:24pm

Uber, the pioneer ride-hailing mobile app operator, is looking to cash in on the massive mainland Chinese outbound travel market over the Lunar New Year through a partnership with Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group.

The two partners have set up a cross-border payment system that will allow mainland travellers to pay for their international Uber rides directly in yuan, using their connected Alipay accounts.

Ant Financial owns and operates Alipay, the online payment platform of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

The cross-border payment service, which extends the cooperation between Uber and Alipay on the mainland since 2014, will initially be available in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan from Sunday, and extended to other countries and territories around the world during the year.

“As the only truly global ride-sharing platform, we are increasingly seeing very strong demand from mainland Chinese riders using Uber in other markets internationally, and this partnership enables us to provide these travellers with a more convenient, hassle-free payment solution,” Eric Alexander, the head of business for Uber Asia, said on Monday.

Until now, riders from mainland China using the Uber app outside their home market needed to connect a dual-currency credit card with their account, and were billed for their rides in US dollars.

The cross-border payment service with Ant Financial will eliminate such dual currency credit cards or currency conversion for mainland travellers using Uber outside the mainland.

Alipay is the world’s largest third-party online payment platform, with more than 400 million active registered users and 200 financial institution partners in China.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Uber runs the world’s only global ride-sharing app -- active in nearly 400 cities across 68 countries and territories in six continents. On the mainland, Uber is currently available in 37 cities, and plans to expand to 55 by the end of this month.

“A big number of young Chinese people, like myself, prefer to travel overseas without joining tour groups,” Abbie Chan, a Shenzhen-based sales manager, said. “Using our Alipay account for a ride in a strange city overseas would be very convenient for us. So I’m looking forward to Uber’s new service.”

According to estimates by independent brokerage and investment group CLSA, the number of outbound tourists from mainland China will continue to grow rapidly and 200 million outbound trips by 2020, up from 125 million last year.

Uber’s cross-border payment initiative pads the US company’s lead over mainland rival Didi Kuaidi, which is set to launch its own international service with other ride-sharing app operators this first quarter. Didi’s partners include US-based Lyft, India’s Ola and GrabTaxi in Singapore.

Didi, in which Chinese internet giants Tencent Holdings and Alibaba are investors, has drawn up billion-dollar expansion plans to increase its market share among Chinese consumers.