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Christchurch goes cashless for Chinese visitors

14 March 2018

ChristchurchNZ and Christchurch Airport are working together to help local businesses connect with Chinese consumers via cashless payment system Alipay.

Through the Christchurch Airport’s “South” programme, the two partners are helping businesses become Alipay Merchants, which enables them to promote their businesses and transact directly with Chinese consumers traveling in New Zealand.

It also ensures Chinese consumers learn about Christchurch and the products and services on offer here, before they leave home.

The city promotion agency is working with the airport to help local businesses to accept the payment system following the airport’s launch of a partnership with Chinese commerce giant Alibaba last year.

Almost 400,000 Chinese visit New Zealand each year and more and more are visiting Christchurch. Direct daily flights from mainland China and commencement of a seasonal direct service to Hong Kong has made Christchurch the fastest growing entry point for Chinese arrivals.

Already 50 Christchurch/Canterbury merchants are among the 178 South Island merchants signed up, with 36 local and 128 wider South Island merchants actively using the payment method which is second nature to more than 500 million Chinese residents. Many other companies have signed up to become part of the scheme and are preparing to add the payment system to their processes.

ChristchurchNZ general manager of destination marketing Rowan Worner said “This growth is fantastic for Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region.  The increase is a result of tourism operators, our airport and their airline partners and ChristchurchNZ all working together.

“We know that very few Chinese use credit cards to pay for purchases. Alipay is used during 120 million trips worldwide by Chinese holiday makers every year, with $1.2 billion being spent using the cashless platform during these trips.

“Using Alipay we have a real opportunity to reach potential visitors whilst they are looking to determine their holiday destination and then to reconnect with them when they return home via the platform.”

Christchurch Casino began offering Alipay before Christmas and Christchurch Casino Food and Beverage Manager Darren Tait says he and his staff have seen a change in guest behaviour with the acceptance of Alipay in the casino restaurants.  

“It is an icebreaker to greater engagement with the guest, because they appreciate the effort made to engage with them,” he says.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Regional Director for Asia and Australia, Duncan Innes-Ker, addressed local business leaders on Friday’s South Island Lantern Business Forum on the way in which key policies and customer trends in China will shape how businesses will interact and engage with the Chinese Market.

“Accessing the Chinese consumer through online portals has never been easier and it’s great to see Christchurch businesses tapping into current Chinese consumer trends,” Mr Innes-Ker says.

Mr Innes-Ker says the introduction of the Alipay payment model will help Chinese visitors feel more comfortable and help increase consumer spend, and might also be a sign of new things to come for Christchurch shoppers as we move towards a cashless – and cardless – society.

“This is a system that’s being rolled out to help Chinese consumers, but perhaps it can also be a model for the local market and a sign of innovation and the direction where things might be going,” he says.

The summer partnership between China Southern Airlines and Christchurch Airport has seen capacity on direct flights from China increase by 12,000 seats with daily flights from December 1, 2017 to February 28, 2018. As a result, Christchurch remains New Zealand’s fastest growing entry point for Chinese visitors.