Etihad Aviation Group runs the second-largest airlines in the United Arab Emirates (UEA). Source: Shutterstock

Etihad and Alipay team up to capitalize on Chinese tourist segment

ALIBABA’S huge lineup of vendors might soon get a huge opportunity to expand their earnings, as the Chinese e-commerce conglomerate recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Etihad Aviation Group (EAG) that would tie up the two companies’ loyalty programs to draw in more customers. 

The EAG – which operates Etihad Airways, the flagship carrier and second-largest airline of the UAE after Emirates – signed the MoU with Alibaba and Ant Financial Services on Sunday, with the Middle Eastern airline firm agreeing to tie up its loyalty programs with the Asian e-commerce giant’s lineup of services.

Under the MoU, Etihad Guest, the EAG’s premier loyalty program, will begin the cross-acquisition of loyalty points, which would include Etihad Guest Miles when customers purchase items from Alibaba, according to an Arabian Aerospace Report.

The MoU also heralds a brand partnership agreement between the Alibaba Group and Etihad Airways, which would allow the companies to integrate the Alibaba Group of Brands with Etihad Airways’ premium leisure travel experience.

Alipay, Alibaba’s online and mobile payment platform which is formally operated by Ant Financial, will also collaborate with Etihad Airways to introduce new payment service options in-flight and on the ground, according to a Travel Trade Daily report. Considering that Alipay commands a formidable user base of more than 500 million monthly, the introduction of these new perks will most likely make traveling with Etihad a more pleasant experience for Chinese travelers.

In a statement to The National, Etihad executive vice president of commercial Mohammed Al Bulooki explained that the partnership would ultimately aid in consolidating the two massive firms’ services. By doing so, both Etihad and Alibaba could expand brand awareness at the same time.

ant financial, money transfer, alibaba

Ant Financial’s Alipay will integrate with Etihad’s services in order to tap into the large segment of Chinese travellers. Source: Reuters

“There is an impressive and growing number of Chinese outbound travelers exploring new destinations and unique experiences. The volume of goods transportation generated on e-commerce platforms has been amazing,” the Etihad executive said, according to The National.

The Middle East, especially areas such as Abu Dhabi, have proven very popular with Chinese tourists. With the introduction of a new visa-on-arrival system last year, the number of Chinese nationals entering the Middle East has increased significantly.

In the first three months of 2017 alone, more than 130,000 Chinese tourists entered Abu Dhabi, which corresponds to an increase of around 48 percent. Considering that Alibaba and Alipay are being utilized by a significant portion of the Chinese population, a lot of these tourists to the Middle East are users of the Chinese e-commerce platform.

With this in mind, the opportunities offered by the new Etihad-Alibaba MoU to Alibaba’s vendors are pretty notable. After all, complimentary miles and additional in-flight conveniences are considerable incentives for Alibaba users who love to travel.

For Chinese travel bugs, doing something as common as buying items from Alibaba or paying through Alipay can now translate as money in the bank for a future leisure trip with Etihad Airways. As the 2017-2018 holiday season begins, there is no better time for small businesses and other Alibaba vendors to promote and market their products to the e-commerce giant’s massive user base.