Chinaskinny was in attendance as e-commerce giant and world’s largest hotelier announce strategic partnership to tap into the growing number of Chinese citizens travelling both abroad and domestically every year.
Over the next five years, Chinese travellers are expected to take an estimated 700 million trips. Heralding this significant growth opportunity for the travel sector, Marriott and Alibaba publicized the details of their new cross platform venture at a joint press conference at the new W Hotel on the Bund in Shanghai last Tuesday.
The joint venture will instantly allow Chinese travellers to book rooms at all Marriott hotels around the world via a dedicated storefront on Alibaba’s travel storefront, Fliggy. Alibaba will manage this platform in conjunction with Marriott, in addition to the hotel brand’s other Chinese language websites and apps.
Perhaps the biggest signal of intent, Alibaba’s 500 million active monthly users are being enrolled into Marriott’s global loyalty programs, receiving more personalized trip-planning services, promotions and exclusive benefits that hope to best entice the China audience. Guests at Marriott hotels across Mainland China and select global markets will also be able to pay for bookings through Alibaba’s online payments platform, Alipay.
“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 Officer 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.”
For Alibaba, this venture allows them to build a platform to gradually rival Ctrip, the dominant online travel agent in China, boost their existing membership scheme through a linkage to Marriott and broaden their appeal to the next generation of customer. At the ceremony, Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang remarked that younger Chinese consumers do not want to just buy goods or products any more, they want to have experiences and travel the world.
The appeal for Marriott is obvious. The China outbound travel market is already the largest in the world with over 130 million Chinese citizens traveling outside the Mainland last year. Utilizing Alibaba’s China marketing and e-commerce expertise will make holidaying overseas more localized and approachable for millions of first time travelers (less than 10 percent of Chinese have passports currently, set for huge change). As middle class growth and consumption continue to outpace GDP, Chinese are looking for higher quality products and travel experiences, and through this venture Marriott can capture this up and coming segment more effectively.
Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International, affirmed this sentiment “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. With the growing number of Chinese consumers exploring new destinations, this venture will introduce our hotels worldwide to this new and growing traveling class.”