Alipay and Yelp join forces to drive local experiences for Chinese travellers in America

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 1:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 6:05am

Alipay, China’s biggest digital payments platform, has joined forces with San Francisco-based online review provider Yelp to bring its local content to millions of Chinese travellers through the mainland company’s mobile lifestyle app.

Their alliance follows recent efforts by Alipay to kick into high gear its international expansion when it extended a partnership with US payment processing specialist First Data Corp to cover a network of more than six million retailers and 4,000 financial institutions around the world.

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“Our partnership with Yelp expedites our goal towards a digital lifestyle and represents a substantial opportunity for US businesses to connect with the growing audience of Chinese travellers that would otherwise be difficult to reach,” said Souheil Badran, the president at Alipay North America, on Wednesday in New York.

The beta launch of Yelp content on Alipay’s app this week will enable mainland Chinese visitors in New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco to easily find local restaurants, bars and shops, as well as get directions, read review snippets in English, make reservations and pay in Chinese yuan at retailers that accept Alipay.

“Yelp content is more important than ever in delivering a locally-aware mobile experience for travellers and locals alike,” said Chad Richard, the senior vice-president for corporate and business development at Yelp.

Additional cities and countries will be added in the Alipay-Yelp coverage within this year, the two companies said.

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“Alipay is already the trusted lifestyle app for Chinese consumers at home, and our growing suite of location-based content and services will continue to elevate their experiences when they travel abroad,” Badran said.

Launched in 2004, Alipay is a subsidiary of Hangzhou-based Ant Financial Services Group. It currently has more than 520 million active users and over 450 financial institution partners.

Ant Financial is an affiliate of New York-listed Alibaba Group Holding, which also owns the South China Morning Post.

Alipay has evolved from a digital wallet to a lifestyle enabler that allows users to hail a taxi, book a hotel, buy movie tickets, pay utility bills, make appointments with doctors, or purchase wealth management products directly from within the app.

The strategic partnership with First Data has likely bolstered the role of Alipay as the de facto mobile payments service for a majority of Chinese outbound tourists, the numbers of which are forecast to hit the 200-million mark by 2020.

First Data and Alipay jointly announced in May their North American partnership, which would support mobile payments by more than four million Chinese tourists who visit the United States and Canada every year.

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“Lots of countries’ duty free shops already accept Alipay to help Chinese tourists spend at their stores, so [international expansion of in-store payment processing via First Data] is a natural progression,” said Paul Haswell, a partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Yelp’s Richard pointed out that the alliance with Alipay “can help Chinese consumers find the perfect place to eat, shop, drink, relax and play when they are visiting the United States”.