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China’s Alipay+ posts whopping 700% growth in Korea this year
Ant Group’s Korea chief pins high hopes on full recovery of tourism next yearBy Choi Ji-won
Published : Dec. 11, 2023 - 18:12
Alipay+, the cross-border payments solutions run by China's Ant Group, saw phenomenal growth in its usage in Korea this year -- almost a 700 percent jump in the monthly numbers -- with the return of foreign tourists and the expansion of its service among the local stores.
Danny Chung, the general manager of Ant Group in Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Mongolia, shared the performance and the company's plans Monday during a roundtable meeting with local journalists held in Seoul.
During the three years since 2020 when global tourism ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Alipay+ invested its efforts in advancing its payment infrastructure in South Korea.
Alipay+ is the global payment and marketing solution of Ant Group, also the operator of the world's largest mobile payment platform Alipay. Alipay Korea began operations of the payments service here in 2015 and has been expanding its reach with the flourishing of Chinese visitors.
"While in the past, it was mostly the Chinese who used our service in Korea, since 2020, we've made the environment where users from other regions around the world, especially from broader Asia, could pay," Chung said.
Based on the fortified network, Alipay+ welcomed the return of foreign travelers since the waning of the pandemic, with its monthly usage jumping by almost 700 percent over the year.
"Compared to January, the monthly transactions volume via Alipay+ in Korea has seen eightfold growth," the regional chief said, declining to provide more details on the tally.
Chung noted the number of foreign tourists in South Korea has neared around two-thirds of the pre-pandemic levels amid a slower-than-expected recovery in Chinese tourists.
"I expect the numbers to recover fully next year. In the case of China, the rebound is sluggish than expected due to various institutional reasons, but it is inching up constantly nevertheless. With the group tour ban lifted in a long time recently, the increase will likely continue for a while," he said.
Alipay+ plans to focus efforts more on expanding its service among the smaller shops, in line with the changed traveling trend among younger visitors.
"Young tourists these days want a 'unique experience' and seek out the small shops that the local people usually go to, like the popular restaurants and non-franchise coffee shops," he explained, adding more payments being made in the newer commercial areas the likes of Seongsu-dong and Apgujeong-dong of Seoul, and not just in the traditional shopping districts of Myeong-dong and Hongdae.
This year was devoted to revitalizing the network and connecting with such newfound partners, Chung added. In September, Alipay+ clinched a partnership with ZeroPay, the electronic wallet service launched by the Seoul city government to help small businesses, adding some 1.7 million merchants to the coverage.
Improving the user experience at newly added smaller shops will be the next step, he emphasized.
"Raising the awareness among the stores (of payments through Alipay+) and enabling the foreign tourists to experience the same payment they use at home here is our goal," Chung said, adding, that the expansion of its service to public transport will also be a priority in the near future.
Chung also shared expectations for the company's outbound business from South Korea next year.
This year, Alipay+ partnered with three top Korean e-wallet service providers -- Kakao Pay, Naver Pay and Toss Pay -- ensuring smoother and more convenient cross-border cashless payments by the Korean firms' customers outside of the country.
"We started servicing (the Korean e-wallet payments) inside China in September and in the rest of the countries in November, so it's just beginning. But I'm aware there are tens of thousands of Koreans traveling every year. We see a big opportunity there," he said.
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