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Alipay gets warm welcome in Santa's hometown

By Cecily Liu | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2016-12-11 09:49

China's high-spending tourists are reaching some of the most remote parts of Europe - evidenced by the fact that the Chinese payment platform Alipay has gained acceptance in more than 100 shops, restaurants and hotels in the northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi within a month.

Rovaniemi, capital of the northern Finnish province of Lapland that's famous for its Santa Claus Village tourist attraction, is also the location Alipay chose to launch its 12.12 shopping festival, which gives discounts to Chinese shoppers between Dec 9 and 12 across 70,000 merchants in 16 countries around the globe.

The launch ceremony on Dec 6 was attended by Rovaniemi Mayor Esko Lotvonen, some of Alipay's local merchant partners and some Chinese tourists.

Lotvonen said Alipay's choice to launch the festival in Santa Claus Village was a token of friendship between China and Finland and his hopes to welcome more Chinese tourists.

 Alipay gets warm welcome in Santa's hometown

Merchants and Chinese tourists attend the opening ceremony of the 12.12 shopping festival at Santa Claus village in Rovaniemi, Finland, on Dec 6. Cecily Liu / China Daily

Alipay is the payment arm of Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of internet giant Alibaba Group Holding. Alipay has 450 million users in China and is expanding rapidly internationally, offering tourists easy and secure payment support.

Now in its third year, 12.12 is a shopping festival that Alipay has used to encourage more purchases - similar to the 11.11 Singles Day shopping event in China.

Whereas 11.11 focuses on online shopping, 12.12 offers are only available when making purchases offline. In Finland, Alipay cooperates with mobile payment provider ePassi, which currently works with about 10,000 merchants in Finland. When Chinese shoppers pay with Alipay, Finnish merchants will receive money in their ePassi wallets within seconds.

"Typically, Chinese travelers in Finland encounter two challenges: tourist information is not widely available in Chinese, and they often need to carry lots of cash. Alipay's entry into Finland solves both challenges," says Alexander Yin, chief financial officer of TCG, the parent company of ePassi.

Beyond payment convenience, Alipay's app also provides practical information about its partner merchants in Finland, helping these merchants to more effectively attract Chinese tourists.

It's increasingly being embraced.

"We are so glad to add Alipay as a new payment method, after having this request from Chinese shoppers for so long," says Tanja Keisu-Makinen, the Helsinki Airport store manager of Finnish watchmaker Lindroos.

Tina Jokinen, the Helsinki Airport store manager for local glassworks manufacturer Littala, says, "We've already had some Alipay transactions in our store, even though we've just launched it for a week."

Alipay was used by 120 million customers overseas last year. It also cooperates with Germany's Wirecard and France's Ingenico, in a similar way to its links with ePassi in Finland.

"Alipay gives me so much convenience; it's very easy to use," says Cao Binjie, 27, a tourist from Guangzhou who used Alipay to buy a deerskin mat, magnets and postcards from the Santa Claus Village souvenir shop.


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