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Singapore ranked global leader in mobile payment usage among Chinese tourists, fueled by the country’s maturity in mobile payment solutions

January 22, 2020 Financial No Comments Email Email


Nielsen and Alipay have jointly released a new report on the latest trends in Chinese outbound tourism and the consumption habits of Chinese travelers for the third consecutive year.

Surveying 4,837 Chinese travelers and 547 overseas merchants, the report finds that the Southeast Asia region maintains its leadership in mobile payment usage among Chinese tourists, with Singapore and Thailand positioned at #1 and #6 in the global ranking, reflecting the region’s maturity in mobile payment solutions. Other countries on the list of “Top 10 countries where Chinese tourists love to use mobile payments” include South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the US.

In Singapore, an early adopter of Chinese mobile payment solutions, almost all merchants (97 percent) indicated steady improvement compared to the previous year in terms of mobile payment usage and the amount of mobile spending by Chinese tourists.

These results are encouraging more overseas merchants to deepen the use of Chinese mobile payment platforms as they go digital. Nearly seven out of ten (66 percent) surveyed merchants in Singapore, South Korea and the U.K. hope to carry out more digital store operations through Chinese mobile payment platforms and hope to further their promotional and marketing activities leveraging Chinese mobile payment platforms.

It’s not surprising then that just under two thirds of merchants surveyed in Singapore, South Korea and the U.K. (63 percent) said that they are likely to recommend Chinese mobile payment systems to their industry peers.

“Chinese mobile payment engagement level and the depth of usage among Chines tourists continued to increase, indicating a more in-depth development of Chinese mobile payment solutions globally. As such, overseas merchants are showing a more open attitude towards the application of Chinese mobile payment platforms and digital operations. More overseas merchants may deepen their use of Chinese mobile payment platforms to go digital,” said Justin Sargent, President of Nielsen China.

Angel Zhao, President of Ant Financial’s International Business Group, commented: “The trend of more overseas merchants going beyond payment to adopt more digitalized services is a promising one, as it helps brick-and-mortar businesses become better integrated with the digital economy while bringing more personalized experiences for consumers around the world. Alipay, as part of the Alibaba ecosystem, aims to support the digital transformation of businesses and we will continue to innovate and help merchants around the world benefit from the rise in global tourism.”

The report provides a new look at the digitalization trend of the overseas retail sector at a time when online and offline businesses are increasingly merging and Chinese tourists are poised to have even more influence as they travel abroad.

Key findings: 

Destination related insights

Ÿ   Among all the countries surveyed, the usage of Chinese mobile payment in Singapore, South Korea and Japan was highest, with Singapore in the leadership position.

o    77% of Chinese tourists in Singapore use mobile payments for their transactions.

Ÿ   Total spending via mobile payment of Chinese tourists increased significantly in countries where Chinese mobile payment adoption is relatively mature.

o    In Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea, the usage rate of mobile payment among Chinese tourists was high, reaching 70% in both 2018 and 2019.

o    Correspondingly, the total amount spent by Chinese tourists increased by 14% in Singapore and Thailand and 23% in Japan and South Korea between 2018 and 2019. 

Merchant related insights

Ÿ   More overseas merchants intend to deepen the use of Chinese mobile payment platforms as they go digital.

o    66% of surveyed merchants in Singapore, South Korea and the UK hope to carry out more digital store operations through Chinese mobile payment

o    66% hope to further their store’s promotional and marketing activities leveraging Chinese mobile payment platforms.

Ÿ   Overseas merchants also found that the use of mobile payment by Chinese tourists is becoming increasingly common, and shows a steady upward trend each year.

o    97% of surveyed merchants in Singapore indicated steady improvement compared to the previous year in terms of mobile payment usage and the amount of mobile spending by Chinese customers.

Ÿ   63% of surveyed merchants in Singapore, South Korea and The U.K. said that they are likely to recommend Chinese mobile payment systems to their industry peers.

Mobile payment insights

  • The proportion of Chinese tourists using mobile payment when traveling abroad in 2019 remained stable compared with 2018. Furthermore, mobile payment engagement level (the proportion of transactions) and depth of usage (total spending) continued to increase.
    • In 2019, 3.4 out of every 10 payments made by each Chinese tourist during overseas travel were mobile payments, a slight increase from the previous year (3.2 payments).
    • The per capita total amount of mobile payment made by outbound Chinese tourists increased by 18% compared to the previous year. Specifically, the total spending amount via mobile phone of tourists born in the 1990s increased by more than 35% in 2018.

Tourism related insights

Ÿ   In 2019, destinations located a four-hour flight away such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore, remained the most popular choices for Chinese tourists.

o    In addition, U.S., Australia, U.K. and Canada were also among the top 10 countries, which indicated that Chinese tourists were fairly keen on traveling to English-speaking countries.

o    Thailand and Singapore were among the Top 10 overseas destinations visited by Chinese tourists in 2019 and the Top 10 Countries for Overseas Travel Plans in 2020.

  • Top three factors affecting Chinese tourists’ overseas shopping habits are:
    • Payment methods accepted by the merchant (37%);
    • Product variety and quality (36%); and
    • Product price (36%).
  • In 2019, compared with last year, Chinese tourists born in the 1990s spent nearly 12% more on a single overseas trip while those born in the 1980s spent 15% more. An underlying reason for the increased travel expenditure may be the desire for more in-depth experience of local cultures.
    • 70% of millennials would proactively search for information on places to eat, stay and visit even after arriving at their travel destinations.
    • More than 50% of those born in the 1990s chose to stay at local homestays and B&Bs rather than hotels.
    • 34% of the post-1990 generation attended concerts or stage performances at their travel destinations, while 26% experienced local outdoor sporting activities.


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