The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has signed a letter of intent with Alipay (Hangzhou) Technology Co to cooperate with the world's largest online payment platform to lure visitors from China.
The one-year cooperation began yesterday and aims at increasing the number of high-quality visitors from the mainland, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
Mr Yuthasak said he estimated many of the 10.5 million Chinese tourists who visited Thailand last year used Alipay to pay for their transactions.
Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the TAT's deputy governor for marketing in Asia and the South Pacific, said under the cooperation, the tourism authority will help support Chinese tourists who use this financial tool to more easily access services at restaurants, spas, hospitals, department stores and theme parks while travelling in Thailand.
In turn, Alipay will create promotions for Chinese, especially high spenders, in the form of "Thank You Rewards", which they hope will lure them to spend more here.
Alipay is the world's largest online payment platform, operated by Ant Financial Service Group, with more than 900 million registered members.
China is the biggest source market for tourist arrivals to Thailand, representing about one-fourth of international visitors last year.
The volume of visitors from the mainland is expected to reach 11.6 million this year, when Thailand projects welcoming 41 million tourists.
Mr Chattan said the TAT plans to encourage tourism operators, including in small provinces, to offer Alipay service.
Some 4.4 million Chinese tourists have visited Thailand from January to May 20 this year, a fall of 5.2% from the same period last year. The TAT is positive arrivals from China will meet its projection of 11.6 million this year, contributing 650 billion baht in tourism income, he said.
"There is plenty of room for Chinese tourist arrivals to grow in Thailand, considering there are 900 million members of Alipay, 149 million of whom can afford to travel overseas," said Mr Chattan.
More convenient air transport will bring in more visitors from China, especially from big cities such as Shanghai, he said.
Lerdchai Wangtrakoondee, director of the TAT's Shanghai office, said several airlines have offered direct flights from Shanghai to Thai cities, with a capacity of 18,000 seats a day. Seat capacity is growing to catch up with higher projected passenger numbers, he said.