STB ties up with Alibaba to woo Chinese tourist dollars

Platforms such as Alipay will help engage tourists to stay longer; deal with Traveloka targets visitors from S-E Asia

From the time they start their journey to Singapore until they leave for home, visitors from China will receive targeted information and be mined for insights into their travel behaviour.

Under a new partnership between the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Alibaba Group, businesses in the group's ecosystem, including Alipay and travel booking site Fliggy, will help to engage the travellers from Singapore's biggest source of visitors and steer them to stay here longer.

The STB also signed an agreement yesterday with travel booking site Traveloka to promote Singapore as a preferred destination to visitors from five major South-east Asian nations: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Together, they made up one-third of all visitor arrivals here last year.

The strategy, which includes putting more local activities and experiences on Traveloka's regional platforms, is to get the travellers to spend more here.

In the next three years, STB and Alibaba will work together on marketing and data sharing, and this will include pushing content on video platform Youku and recommending offerings in Singapore through Alipay.

Alibaba's entertainment-related offerings will target young families and professionals, the two parties said in a statement.

STB chief executive Keith Tan described the partnership as a "game changer for Singapore".

China toppled Indonesia to be the biggest source of visitors to Singapore in 2017, a position it continued to hold last year.

"We will for the first time be able to engage with visitors at every step of the consumer journey, from pre-arrival to post-visit, through Alibaba's platforms and technologies," he said.

China toppled Indonesia to be the biggest source of visitors to Singapore in 2017, a position it continued to hold last year.

Chinese tourists are also the biggest spenders: from January to September last year, 3.4 million visitors spent about $3.16 billion here.

Dr Cherry Huang, general manager of cross-border business for Alipay in South and South-east Asia, said Singapore remains one of the most popular destinations for Chinese travellers.

Payment platform Alipay also provides customised recommendations on restaurants and shops for example, Dr Huang added.

In Singapore, the app has about 30,000 merchants, many of them small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), she said. As more young travellers "want to travel as locals... the SMEs are better at providing them with more authentic local experiences".

Chinese millennials are also more flexible in planning their trips and tend to book accommodation for one night while looking for other options and deciding how long to stay, she added.

Convincing them to spend more time here will require "a bit more diversity in the types of choices, especially for non-conventional kinds of places", she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2019, with the headline 'STB ties up with Alibaba to woo Chinese tourist dollars'. Print Edition | Subscribe