EDITORIAL: Technology and Chinese Outbound Tourism

The 25th Edition of the ENTER conference: The future of tech in tourism is increasingly Asian

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear readers,

Last week saw the 25th ENTER conference, this time organised by IFITT in the far north in the Swedish city of Jönköping. IFITT stands for International Federation for Information Technologies and Travel & Tourism, the leading independent global community for the discussion, exchange and development of knowledge about the use and impact of new information and communication technologies in the travel and tourism industry. The community comprises of about 350 professionals, which used to be mostly from Western Europe, but in Sweden there was a clear indication that Asia, in particular, China, is rising in this field as well. Many papers not only had IT and tourism development in Asia as a topic, but were delivered also by researchers from the region. Even the new president of IFITT, Mrs. Iis Tussyadiah, hails from Indonesia.

Your humble author had the chance to attend the conference, as COTRI has become a proud member of IFITT, and listened to, among many others, a presentation by Law, Sun, Schuckert & Buhalis from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Bournemouth University respectively. The researchers showed that mobile payment has become a very important service for Chinese travellers. In China itself, more than 70% of all consumer payment transactions last year were made via mobile services, mostly AliPay and WeChatPay. Many cities, including Hangzhou, are fast becoming “cash-free” zones, where even the old gentleman running his small Chinese fast food stall will only accept payment via mobile phone in exchange for a bowl of Pianchuaner Noodles or a Hangzhou Streamed Bun.

Tourism service providers and retailers in many destinations took years to learn that Chinese travellers do not use American Express or Visa credit cards, but something called UnionPay. And now, after they finally started to accept them, they find that any kind of plastic card is already considered old-fashioned by the Chinese going abroad, especially by the majority of millennials (persons born between 1980 and 1999). Non-acceptance or disruption of such payment services will more often than not result in the simple fact that the would-be customer becomes a non-customer, meaning no business for the local company.

In Sweden, locals are used to cash-less business as well, but watching Chinese arrivals searching at Frankfurt airport for a taxi driver accepting AliPay can be really touching.

With all good wishes for a successful week,

Prof. Dr. Arlt and the COTRI Weekly Team