Consumer spending surges over Lunar New Year

Ant Group, the owner and operator of open platform Alipay, has reported a rebound in consumer spending during this year’s Lunar New Year travel season, one that is significant as the first celebrations without restrictions since the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the holiday period between February 9 and 12, the number of transactions made by Alipay users overseas surpassed that of 2019’s level by seven per cent while consumer spending recovered to 82 per cent of 2019’s or 2.4 times of 2023.

Chinese tourists spent 70 per cent more on F&B than in 2019

Ant Group noted that closer socio-economic connections within Greater China, new visa-free policies from major South-east Asian destinations, and recovering international flight capacities were key drivers of the festival travel boom.

While traditional Asia hotspots kept their following, more distant destinations in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, and North America also showed a rise in Chinese traveller expenditure.

Alipay spend data showed that Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, France, Australia and Canada were top destinations for Chinese travellers. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore combined saw a 7.5 per cent increase over 2019, and a 580 per cent leap over 2023, with Thailand leading in total volume and Malaysia showing the largest increase.

Expenditure was made on traditional activities like shopping and tourism spots-hopping, as well as on immersive and unique local experience. Globally throughout the Lunar New Year week, Chinese tourists spent 70 per cent more on F&B than in 2019, venturing from downtown hotspots to off-the-beaten-track locations.

In-destination transportation spend now ranges from rail and taxi to subway and scooter-share, allowing more local SMEs on the public transport network to gain a share of international tourist revenue. The cost per ride on any vehicle for Alipay travellers dropped by 60 per cent compared to 2019.

On the back of new partnerships forged in 2023 and increased travel, cross-border expenditure on regional e-wallets powered by Alipay+ rose by 252 per cent year-on-year. Daily average transactions increased by 304 per cent. Japan, South Korea, Macau, Thailand and Singapore are the top five most popular destinations for Alipay+ consumers besides the Chinese.

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, also supported by Alipay+. Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, and Diners Club International expanded their collaboration with Alipay for travellers linking their international credit or debit card to their Alipay e-wallet.

During the current Spring Festival, international travellers to China spent 500 per cent more on their international card-enabled Alipay accounts at merchants in China compared to 2023. Chinese restaurants, tourist attractions and public transportation are the most popular use cases for international visitors traveling in China and experiencing the festival.

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