Marriott partners Alibaba to draw China travellers

Chinese tourists in Tokyo's Ginza district. The world's biggest hotel chain's joint venture will allow Chinese travellers to book rooms at Marriott hotels via Alibaba's Fliggy service platform. Over the next five years, Chinese travellers are expecte
Chinese tourists in Tokyo's Ginza district. The world's biggest hotel chain's joint venture will allow Chinese travellers to book rooms at Marriott hotels via Alibaba's Fliggy service platform. Over the next five years, Chinese travellers are expected to make 700 million trips.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK • Marriott International has said it would partner China's Alibaba Group Holding to tap the growing number of Chinese citizens who travel abroad.

The world's biggest hotel chain said the joint venture would allow Chinese travellers to book rooms at Marriott hotels via Alibaba's travel service platform, Fliggy.

Travellers will be able to sign up for Marriott's rewards programme and get special members-only rates through Fliggy, Marriott's global chief commercial officer Stephanie Linnartz said in an interview.

Alibaba will eventually run Marriott's websites and apps.

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Tourists will be able to pay for bookings using the Chinese e-commerce firm's online payments platform, Alipay, the companies said.

The long-term market opportunity in China is huge for firms targeting both domestic and outbound Chinese travellers, according to Evercore ISI equity analyst Rich Hightower.

Over the next five years, Chinese travellers will make an estimated 700 million trips, the firms said in a statement. Marriott's focus with the joint venture is mostly outbound Chinese travellers, Ms Linnartz said.

Marriott owns the JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance and Autograph Collection hotel brands, among others. It has nearly 300 hotels in China and around 300 hotels in the pipeline.

Twenty-two of its 30 brands have a presence in China.

China's importance to Marriott was heightened after the company's acquisition of Starwood Hotels, which had a larger presence in the country than Marriott, Ms Linnartz said.

Shares of Marriott closed up 1.1 per cent on Nasdaq on Monday but fell 1.8 per cent after the close following the company's release of second-quarter earnings.

Shares of Alibaba ended up 3.6 per cent at US$158.84 (S$216.24) on Nasdaq.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Marriott partners Alibaba to draw China travellers'. Print Edition | Subscribe