Prof Dr Wolfgang Arlt, Director of the COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, has announced at ITB Berlin that the number of Chinese people who can afford to travel internationally will double to 600 million in five years.
A Deep Dive Session (a new debate format at ITB Berlin), was devoted to the question of “How European hotels and tour operators can take part in this boom”. The debate was animated by Terry von Bibra, European General Manager of the Chinese platform Alibaba. Alibaba, often called the “Chinese Amazon”, is currently used by 642 million people. It should, according to research, reach two billion by 2036.
Alibaba also offers a travel app within its platform: Fliggy is mainly used by Chinese millennials. “58% of our users are born after 1999,” says von Bibra. However, Alibaba does not see itself as the industry’s only player, but instead, as a technical “enabler” for its partners in the market. Fliggy is, therefore, not an online travel agency but an “online travel marketplace.”
This means that Fliggy offers access to the Chinese source market. The system also includes a mobile payment option called Alipay, common in China, and every Fliggy customer is required to register. Fliggy’s goal is to connect local partners from all regions of the world and make them accessible to Chinese tourists, says von Bibra. These partners can implement ‘post- post-payment options’ as permitted by the legal framework.
There are already partnerships between Fliggy and large tour operators and international hotel groups. But what about small tour and activity operators and boutique hotels? “This is still complicated,” von Bibra acknowledged, as the expense of implementation is not to be underestimated. However, Alibaba provides experts that can assist when entering the booming Chinese source market.
Photo: Terry von Bibra European General Manager of the Chinese platform, Alibaba