a person making payment with WeChat Pay

WeChat won’t be adding any local wallets to markets outside of China, opting to focus on tourists instead. Source: Shutterstock

WeChat Pay zeroes in on Chinese tourists

CHINESE tech giant Tencent won’t be adding local mobile wallets anymore outside of China in the next three years, opting to focus on outbound tourists instead.

The company’s mobile wallet WeChat Pay is a payment service integrated into the country’s popular chat app WeChat. Outside of mainland China, WeChat Pay currently serves local digital wallets in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Currently, WeChat Pay and rival Alipay dominate the mobile payment landscape in China, taking 90 percent of the market share.

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), Grace Yin, director of WeChat Pay’s international operations said, “We don’t have many WeChat users in overseas countries, so we should accept that it will be hard to develop payment tools for them.”

A Yin explained that Tencent is focussing on building payments infrastructure in these markets, to allow Chinese tourists to pay for goods and services seamlessly, as well as for local merchants to receive payments.

Currently, WeChat pay is already available in over 40 counties in 13 currencies. According to Yin, over 800 million users have linked their bank accounts or credit cards to the service.

WeChat’s expansion plan seems to follow in the footstep of Alipay. The company targeted its initial rollout in Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

“WeChat Pay will then seek quick adoption in European countries, the US as well as Australia and New Zealand,” said Yin.

This move is hardly surprising. There are currently only around 70 million WeChat users overseas. For context, WeChat has over 1 billion users in total.

A joint report by China Tourism Academy and online travel service Ctrip noted that Chinese travelers account for more than 130 million outbound trips in 2017. They’ve spent around US$115 billion within the year, with Thailand, Japan, and Singapore being the most popular destinations.

Alipay, which is the payments subsidiary of Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services Group, has also been aggressively expanding to Europe and North America precisely to cater for this demand.

The latest addition for Alipay is Boston and London. In Boston, tourists can pay in a variety of grocers, food chain, retailers, as well as book tours with the mobile wallet. In London, Alipay partnered with travel company Merlin Entertainment to enable payments across popular tour attractions owned by the company.