Consumer spending during the first back-to-normal Chinese New Year travel season after the Covid-19 pandemic has rebounded strongly. Data released by Ant Group highlights that the recovery is especially strong in cross-border tourism.

Robust recovery, diversified destinations and scenarios for outbound Chinese tourists using Alipay

Through the Alipay+ cross-border mobile payment technology solutions, Chinese travelers may pay for goods, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment at over 8 million merchants in over 70 countries and regions. Payment can be made from users’ home app Alipay, with no need to change money or carry cash. Alipay also offers in-app instant tax refunds, as well as transparent and competitive exchange rates.

A global campaign has been in full swing on the Alipay+ merchant network since December 2023 to attract Chinese tourists. In the CNY holiday week between 9 February and 12 February, the number of transactions made by Alipay users overseas surpassed that of 2019 by 7%. Consumer spending recovered to 82% of the 2019 level, or 2.4 times of 2023.

Closer socio-economic connections between Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and the Chinese Mainland, the new visa-free policies from major Southeast Asia destinations and recovering international flight capacities are key drivers of the cross-border travel boom. More distant destinations in Europe, ANZ, the Middle East and North America are also picking up in Chinese traveler spending.

Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, France, Australia and Canada are the top destinations for Chinese travelers by their Alipay spending. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore combined saw a 7.5% increase over 2019, and a 580% leap over 2023. Thailand leads in total volume with Malaysia showing the largest increase.

Globally in the CNY week, Chinese tourists spent 70% more on food and beverage than in 2019.

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China native: AI, popular culture and social buzz drive consumer enthusiasm

On Alipay’s home front, 2024 is also the first time AI features prominently adopted in online holiday celebration nationwide. AI features in the app drew 600 million user interactions during Alipay’s signature annual Five Fortune campaign. Over 12 million Alipay users created personalised digital red packets using AI voice and video generation technology on Alipay’s platform.

Robust intra-Asia flows among Alipay+ partner e-wallets

The Chinese New Year is widely celebrated across Asian communities. With new partnerships in 2023 and increased travel, total cross-border spending on the region’s leading e-wallets powered by Alipay+ increased by 252% year-on-year. Daily average transactions increased by 304%. Japan, South Korea, Macao SAR, Thailand and Singapore are the top 5 most popular destinations for Alipay+ consumers besides the Chinese mainland.

International e-wallets and cards-enabled Alipay accounts saw multi-fold expansion in the Chinese mainland. Since September 2023, 10 leading e-wallets and payment apps in Asia have been serving their roaming users across Alipay’s 80-million-strong merchant network in China.

“With its use spreading across age and income groups, increasingly mobile payment is becoming an important promoter of local and cross-border commerce in Asia and beyond, ” said Douglas Feagin, Senior Vice President of Ant Group and Head of Alipay+. “We expect to grow our partnerships with the payment industry leaders, national tourist agencies and merchants in 2024 to generate more growth. “