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Ant Group and Mastercard extend digital payments programme to Chengdu and Chongqing

Source: Ant Group

Ant Group and Mastercard, along with 12 overseas payment partners of Alipay+ and other major international card organizations, have extended the International Consumer Friendly Zones program to major Western Chinese cities of Chengdu and Chongqing, as inbound travel to the region rises driven by continued growth of international tourism and trade.

Chengdu and Chongqing have become prominent attractions for international visitors. Both cities secured spots among the top ten inbound tourism destinations in the first quarter of 2024. With the support of local government departments, the International Consumer Friendly Zones program will be rolled out to a total of over 60 primary shopping areas, renowned tourist attractions as well as the international airports and high-speed railway stations in the two cities. The participating merchants will enhance payment signage visibility to clearly inform customers about the array of digital payment methods supported by Ant Group and its partners.

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province renowned for its giant pandas, witnessed 410,000 entries and exits of foreign nationals in the first five months of 2024, marking an increase of more than five times compared to the previous year. Similarly, the number of foreign arrivals at the international airport of Chongqing, known as the Mountain City of China, saw a sixfold increase in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter.

The two cities, which are connected by rapid train ride of just over an hour, have also become popular destinations for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) visitors to China. ASEAN was the largest trading partner of Sichuan in 2023. The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative is the third Government-to-Government project between China and Singapore and the only one to be established in western China.

In the first half of 2024, spending by international visitors in Chengdu and Chongqing via digital payment methods supported by Ant Group and its partners increased 13 times on year. Among e-wallet partners of Alipay+, a suite of cross-border mobile payment and digitalization technology solutions under Ant International, AlipayHK, Touch 'n Go eWallet (Malaysia), and TrueMoney (Thailand) ranked top three in terms of visitor transaction volume. Additionally, the number of merchants in both cities accepting payments from international visitors via Alipay+ grew more than five times year-on-year.

Ant Group now offers 2 mobile payment alternatives for international visitors in China. Alipay+ enables international visitors to pay with their home e-wallets across China. Alipay+ supports 12 leading e-wallets and payment apps in Asia for use across an 80-million-strong merchant network in China, including AlipayHK (Hong Kong SAR, China), Kaspi.kz (Kazakhstan), MPay (Macao SAR, China), Touch 'n Go eWallet (Malaysia), Hipay (Mongolia), NayaPay (Pakistan), Changi Pay (Singapore), OCBC Digital (Singapore), Kakao Pay (South Korea), Naver Pay (South Korea), Toss Pay (South Korea), and TrueMoney (Thailand).

The other option allows visitors to bind major international bank cards -- Mastercard, Visa, JCB, Discover®, and Diners Club International -- to the Alipay app, enabling access to a rich array of local Alipay services, including shopping, dining, ride-hailing to public transportation, without needing a mainland China bank account or phone number.

Following the initial rollout of the program in Beijing and subsequent expansion to Guangzhou and Shanghai earlier this year, Ant Group has been working intimately with partners to improve digital payment options' accessibility and ease of use for international travellers as inbound travel continues to recover. The China Tourism Academy expects inbound travel to the country to reach 80% of the pre-pandemic level in 2024, citing factors including the expansion of China’s visa-waiver policies to more countries as well as the gradual resumption of international flights.

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