Ant Financial, the mobile payments affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, said it has signed up more than 300,000 retailers in Japan to its Alipay service to serve the growing number of Chinese tourists to the country. The Hangzhou-based firm will not charge access fees in extending its services to more retailers in Japan, it said in a release. The number of merchants that accept Alipay have surged by about six times from about 50,000 in early 2018. More than 8.3 million Chinese people travelled to Japan in 2018, accounting for 27 per cent of total arrivals, according to Ant. Asia as a region, led by China, has become a major source of tourist spending in Japan, accounting for 86 per cent of total visitors, according to Ant Financial. Transaction volume in Japan during May 1-4 ranked the fourth across all markets, according to Alipay, registering an increase of 25 per cent from the same period last year. Airports, department stores, pharmacies and convenience stores were among the places that recorded the highest Alipay expenditure. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post . Alipay is expanding in Japan ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games that Tokyo will host next summer. Mobile payment has increasingly become the payment method of choice among Chinese consumers due to widespread ownership of smartphones and convenience of making secure payments through the scanning of QR bar codes, a feature available through both Alipay and Tencent Holdings’ WeChat Pay. Ant Financial’s ‘lend a helping hand’ health product amasses 50 million users China’s mobile payment reached 47.2 trillion yuan (US$6.9 trillion) in the fourth quarter last year, up 7.8 per cent from the previous quarter, according to a research note by the Beijing-based Analysys. Alipay had a 54 per cent market share followed by WeChat Pay’s 39 per cent during the three-month period, said the research firm. More than half of the overseas businesses surveyed saw an increase in both foot traffic in their stores and the size of transactions made by Chinese travellers after they adopted Alipay, a report released jointly by US research firm Nielsen and Alipay said in January. Launched in 2004, Alipay’s in-store payment service covers more than 50 countries and regions across the world, and tax reimbursement via Alipay is supported in 35 countries and regions. Alipay, which currently supports 27 currencies, works with over 250 overseas financial institutions and payment solution providers to enable cross-border payments for Chinese travelling overseas and overseas customers who purchase products from Chinese e-commerce sites.