Nielsen: Chinese Tourists Use Mobile Payment Abroad More than Cash for the First Time


Beijing—Jan 21, 2019—About 69% of Chinese tourists sampled have used mobile payment while traveling overseas, 4 percent up compared to last year, and more than 3 out of every 10 payments of Chinese tourists are made by mobile payment during outbound travel, according to the latest whitepaper jointly issued by Nielsen, a global leading information and measurement company, and Alipay, the world’s leading payment and lifestyle platform. According to the whitepaper, the use of mobile payment for overseas consumption is no longer a privilege for millennials. Mobile payment has already benefited Chinese tourists of various ages. For instance, 68% of Chinese tourists who were born between 1970 and 1979 used mobile payment while traveling abroad.

In addition to bringing a better experience for Chinese tourists to travel abroad, in fact, Chinese mobile payment has further stimulated the digital transformation of local offline entities in operations and marketing, bringing to merchants new vitality and opportunities. For example, over 50% of the merchants surveyed said that after adopting Alipay, the flow of Chinese tourists has increased, and the turnover of stores has also increased accordingly.

In order to understand the development trend of China’s mobile payment in overseas markets, Nielsen and Alipay have released a whitepaper named “2018 trends of Chinese mobile payment in outbound tourism” focusing on the application of mobile payment when Chinese tourists travel overseas and the attitudes of overseas merchants, especially in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, which provides insight of the opportunities and challenges of China’s mobile payment brand’s overseas development.

Chinese tourists pay more attention to travel experience

According to the whitepaper, outbound travel becomes more popular among Chinese tourists due to easier visa process. More than half of the first-tier city residents have traveled to Hong Kong, Macao, Japan or South Korea in the past year, and short-distance travel has become their common leisure lifestyle. In addition, the average yearly spending and the number of destinations on overseas tour have also increased significantly for second-tier city residents, making them a new force in overseas travel.

In 2018, Chinese tourists extend their destinations to further places, and personalized tourism has become a new trend. Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and Southeast Asia are still the most popular destinations for outbound travel. The fast-growing outbound travel market and personalized demand prompted more Chinese tourists to go deep into more adventurous destinations such as Central Asia and Africa to experience cultures and cuisines which are different from frequently visited travel areas. As a typical example of pioneering tourists, 18% of surveyed Chinese tourists born between 1990-1999 traveled to Central and Western Asia or Africa, while 5% traveled to Nordic countries.

While paying attention to travel destinations, Nielsen also observed the consumption habits of Chinese tourists traveling abroad. In 2018, the top three sectors of Chinese outbound travel consumption are still shopping (25%), accommodation (18%) and dining (16%). The importance of shopping quality has become one of the top three factors influencing Chinese tourists’ purchasing decisions. At the same time, more Chinese tourists choose to shop in roadside and specialty stores, suggesting that shopping experiences have become a new trend when Chinese travel abroad.

The use of mobile payment is no longer just a trend for younger consumers

With the expansion of footsteps of Chinese tourists, mobile payment, as a convenient and safe paying method, has already occupied a position in the overseas travel payment market, and has shown a trend of further development. In 2018, 69% of Chinese outbound tourists used mobile payment at their destinations. Last year, the usage rate of mobile payment increased by 4 percentage points, becoming closer to bank card payment and cash.

At the same time, compared to last year, the proportion of mobile payment in the total number of Chinese tourists payment transactions has increased. Judging from payments of Chinese tourists’ latest outbound travel consumption, more than 3 out of every 10 payments were made by smartphone, which has exceeded cash payment.

As for the use of mobile payment for different age groups, in 2017, the proportion of mobile payment for outbound travel for the 1970s and 1960s generation was significantly lower than that of the people born in the 1990s and 1980s. In 2018, mobile payment has already benefited Chinese outbound tourists of various ages. The mobile payment usage rate of older Chinese tourists surveyed has reached 68%, which is close to the frequency of young people; For post 1970s and 1960s, there is also a strong willingness to use mobile devices to pay. 88% of them will take the initiative to ask whether stores support mobile payment, which increased 14 points compared with last year.

The local merchants accelerate adoption to China’s mobile payment providing new impetus for local businesses growth
93% of Chinese tourists stated that they may have more willingness to consume or shop in the future when more overseas merchants support China’s mobile payment. As merchants at destinations have increased adoption rate for mobile payment, the barriers to using mobile payment abroad have been further reduced for Chinese tourists. In addition, the overseas merchants accessing China’s mobile payment are increasingly diversified, especially in the local supermarkets, duty-free shops, and quality shopping scenes. The prototype of Chinese tourists’ travelling without cash has emerged. These scene changes have jointly affected the willingness of Chinese tourists to consume.

In addition to providing more convenience for Chinese customers, China’s mobile payment has also brought new vitality to local merchants. According to the whitepaper, 40% of the local merchants clearly stated that after adopting China’s mobile payment, the overall passenger flow of the store rose up.

Local merchants have observed that mobile payment is one of the most common paying methods for Chinese customers who have strong willingness of using it, unlike tourist from other countries that using mobile payment as just a supplement to cash and credit card. For example, in the case of a merchant surveyed, 90% of Chinese customers who are important revenue sources for stores, will ask for mobile payment.

Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as popular destinations for Chinese tourists, 58% of the small and medium-sized local merchants in scenic spots have already supported mobile payment, of which over 70% of the stores have already used China’s mobile payment. In 2016 or earlier, only 12% of these stores had access to China’s mobile payment systems. But in the past two years, the number of merchants adopting China’s mobile payment has seen explosive growth.

With the trend of more and more Chinese tourists using mobile payment and the deepening awareness of mobile payment of overseas merchants, the willingness of overseas merchants to use China’s mobile payment system is also on the rise. Taking the merchants surveyed in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand as an example, 60% of them who had access to China’s mobile payment system were willing to recommend this paying method to their peers; and another 55% said they would use China’s mobile payment in the near future.

“Both Chinese tourists’ mobile payment usage rate and overseas merchants’ acceptance rate of China’s mobile payment are showing a growing trend. However, along with the increasingly personalized and sophisticated demand of Chinese tourists, improving the global coverage of mobile payments is a long-term project,” said Andy Zhao, President of Nielsen China.


This survey on China’s outbound tourism consumption and payment is a Nielsen quantitative online research commissioned by Alipay, an offline merchant visit and a pair of in-depth interviews.

The research results of “ Outbound Chinese Tourism and Consumption Trend: 2018 Survey ” are based on Nielsen’s overseas Chinese consumption in mainland China, and special research on the current status and future trends of overseas tourism consumption and mobile payment for small and medium-sized merchants in three national tourist attractions in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Nielsen conducted extensive quantitative online research and offline merchant surveys in the third quarter of 2018. The premise of the online interview sample was that there had been an outbound travel experience in the past 12 months, and there will be outbound travel plans in the next 12 months. The precondition for the offline merchants to visit of the survey is that there are various small and medium-sized merchants such as shopping, catering and scenic spots for Chinese customers in the popular tourist attractions of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

The survey results do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entrusting party, and the survey data and results only represent the basic situation of surveyed people for certain time and serve the current survey purpose. Nielsen's consumer finance research team designed this research and refined its opinions to provide reference for the market, industry and readers. Nielsen does not bear any legal responsibility for the data and opinions in this report.


Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Our approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge. For more than 90 years Nielsen has provided data and analytics based on scientific rigor and innovation, continually developing new ways to answer the most important questions facing the media, advertising, retail and fast-moving consumer goods industries. An S&P 500 company, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit


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