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Marriott Will Accept Alipay As Part of an Ambitious Joint Venture With China’s Alibaba
August 7, 2017

By John Stewart

Chinese tourism abroad has already taken off, and it’s expected to grow ever larger in coming years, lifting sales for merchants in the United States and other parts of the world. The latest company to set itself up to cash in on the trend is Marriott International Inc., which on Monday joined China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in announcing a joint venture that will include acceptance of the Alipay digital wallet at certain Marriott properties globally.

Through the partnership, Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott, a $14.5-billion business that also owns the Starwood and Ritz-Carlton hotel brands, will cater to a market that will include a projected 700 million trips by Chinese tourists over the next five years, according to figures from Alibaba. Beyond this, Alibaba’s mobile platform boasts 500 million monthly users, the online-marketplace company says.

"We are proud to join forces with Marriott International, combining our large-scale consumer base, leading-edge technology and consumer insights with their unparalleled hospitality expertise," said Daniel Zhang, chief executive of Alibaba Group, in a statement. "Together, we are elevating and redefining the travel experience for Chinese consumers to be more seamless and personalized as they embark on adventures to discover the world."

Besides the acceptance of Alipay mobile payments, the deal includes digital interoperability to ease booking and managing a trip, enable shopping and sightseeing, access private concerts and sports events, and earn points on Marriott’s loyalty platform.

"By forming this partnership, we are pairing our hospitality expertise with Alibaba's digital travel platform, retail expertise and digital payment platform, Alipay, and driving membership to our loyalty programs,” said Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive at Marriott, in a statement. “With the growing number of Chinese consumers exploring new destinations, this venture will introduce our hotels worldwide to this new and growing traveling class."

The parties didn’t specify how many properties will accept Alipay at first, but said the number will grow. Alipay is managed by Ant Financial Services Group, a unit of Alibaba. Ant Financial this spring agreed to pay $1.2 billion to acquire Dallas-based MoneyGram International Inc.

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