Ant Group and Mastercard Expand International Consumer Friendly Zones Program to Enhance Inbound Travel to China

The International Consumer Friendly Zones initiative broadens to Chengdu and Chongqing after successful introductions in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.

Ant Group collaborates with prominent international card networks and top Asian e-wallet providers to enrich the digital payment experience for visitors arriving in China.

Ant Group, Mastercard, and 12 overseas payment partners of Alipay+ and other major international card organizations have expanded the International Consumer Friendly Zones program to Chengdu and Chongqing, key cities in Western China. This expansion comes as inbound travel to the region grows steadily due to increasing international tourism and trade activities.

Chengdu and Chongqing have emerged as popular destinations for international visitors, ranking 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 cover more than 60 primary shopping areas, renowned tourist attractions, international airports, and high-speed railway stations in both cities. Participating merchants will enhance visibility of payment signage to inform customers about the variety of digital payment methods supported by Ant Group and its partners.

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

Both cities have also become attractive destinations for visitors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with ASEAN being the largest trading partner of Sichuan in 2023. The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, a key Government-to-Government project between China and Singapore in Western China, underscores the region’s growing connectivity and economic importance.

In the first half of 2024, spending by international visitors in Chengdu and Chongqing using digital payment methods supported by Ant Group and its partners increased significantly year-on-year. Among the e-wallet partners of Alipay+, including AlipayHK, Touch ‘n Go eWallet (Malaysia), and TrueMoney (Thailand), transaction volumes from visitors ranked highest. The number of merchants accepting payments from international visitors via Alipay+ in both cities also grew substantially year-on-year.

Ant Group now offers two mobile payment options for international visitors in China. Alipay+ allows visitors to use their home e-wallets across China and supports 12 leading e-wallets and payment apps in Asia. Alternatively, visitors can link major international bank cards—Mastercard, Visa, JCB, Discover®, and Diners Club International—to the Alipay app, gaining access to a wide range of local services including shopping, dining, and transportation without needing a mainland China bank account or phone number.

Since its initial launch in Beijing and subsequent expansion to Guangzhou and Shanghai earlier this year, Ant Group has collaborated closely with partners to enhance the accessibility and user experience of digital payment options for international travelers as inbound travel continues to recover. The China Tourism Academy anticipates inbound travel to reach 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2024, driven by expanded visa-waiver policies and the gradual resumption of international flights.

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