DOT eyes Alipay to raise spending of Chinese travelers in PHL

Caption: Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat (right) receives China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (top photo) and Japan’s Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda (bottom photo), in separate courtesy calls on June 5, 2018 at the Department of Tourism building in Makati. (Contributed photos)

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is studying the possibility of using Alipay in tourism establishments in the country to boost the arrival and spending of Chinese travelers in the Philippines.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat disclosed this in an interview with the BusinessMirror, after meeting with Ambassador Zhao Jianhua of the People’s Republic of China on June 5, at the DOT building in Makati City.

“I was amazed in a recent trip to Beijing, that it’s all cashless there. A number of merchants even looked at me quizzically because I was using cash to make purchases. Cashless is really the way to go; you are safe from thieves, and it makes doing business easier. So I will be studying how it works, and the mechanics of registering, and maybe recommend to the hotels, resorts and other tourism establishments to use it,” she said.

The country’s tourism chief said Ambassador Zhao agreed that the use of Alipay in the country would help attract more Chinese tourists to visit, especially since they will no longer have to go to foreign-exchange dealers just to get their money, the Chinese Yuan/Renminbi exchanged to Philippine peso.

“[Ambassador Zhao] said even students in China now pay for their food and other purchases using Alipay. And their parents are able to monitor what their children buy. So I think it’s a really good idea to use this. It will attract more Chinese tourists to the Philippines—they are the second-largest market now after South Koreans. It will also help increase their spending here,” Romulo Puyat said.

Data from the DOT showed Chinese tourists spent P16.35 billion in the Philippines in January and February 2018. No comparative data are available. The DOT has been consistently delayed in reporting visitor- receipts data since 2016.

Alipay is a mobile and online payment platform created in 2004 by the Alibaba Group. It now has about 520 million users, with daily transactions in China alone reaching 100 million.

Another third-party mobile payment platform, WeChat Pay, started offering services in the Philippines in 2017. A product of China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd., WeChat Pay is embedded in the WeChat messaging application widely used in China. Over 1,000 establishments in the country have already been accepting payments on transactions using WeChat Pay.

The Chinese ambassador, Romulo Puyat added, also suggested that signage in key places like hotels and restaurants, tourism destinations and restaurant menus, also be translated in Mandarin, China’s national language.

“I will bring this up with the stakeholders; they know their market best. So if they want to attract more Chinese tourists, this is one of the ways to do that,” the DOT secretary said.

Major hotels and resorts in the country already employ Mandarin-speaking greeters, front office personnel, and restaurant receptionists, to cater to their growing number of Chinese guests.

Chinese visitor arrivals in the Philippines grew by 43.3 percent to 968,447 in 2017, making them the second top source of tourists for that year. This was attributed to the warming of relations between Beijing and Manila after President Duterte made his first visit to China in October 2016. Beijing has promised to send 1 million tourists to the Philippines every year.

Prior to the Chinese Ambassador’s courtesy call on Romulo Puyat, the latter was also visited by Koji Haneda, Japan’s Ambassador to the Philippines. Haneda, the DOT said, shared his views on tourism, food, culture, and close relations with Filipinos.

Last year, visitor arrivals from Japan grew by 9.14 percent to 584,180, accounting for an 8.82-percent market share. It is the fourth largest source of tourists in the Philippines.

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