Consumer Technology is Transforming Luxury Travel in China

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The luxury tourism industry is undergoing significant change with the digital revolution. Emerging technologies reshape how tourists pay and communicate. Photo courtesy: Shutterstock

Editor’s note:The luxury tourism industry is undergoing significant change at the hands of the digital revolution. Emerging technologies have reshaped the way tourists pay for travels and how they communicate during the trip. Let’s take a look at what Jing Travel has to say.

It’s hard to understate the transformative power of Chinese travel. The rise of Chinese tourism, both in the number of tourists and spending, is forcing destinations and tourism firms around the world reorient their priorities. But it’s also spurring a transformation in different fields of consumer technology not directly connected to tourism.

A recent example is a new pocket translator released through a partnership between Ctrip, China’s largest online travel marketplace, and Baidu, the technology firm responsible for the Baidu search engine and the Baidu Translate software. The small device will have its own SIM card capable of functioning in over 80 countries and will also serve as a WiFi hotspot.

This type of tool could help overcome a major obstacle to the growth of Chinese travel. The vast majority of Western travelers have little issue, linguistically, with global travel. While an American traveler may go to a country where most of the residents don’t speak English, the chances of going somewhere where no one speaks English is pretty small—they are almost always able to make do. Chinese travelers, who more often than not have limited English-speaking abilities, do not have this luxury in regards to Chinese, this holds true for travelers from a myriad of up and coming tourist source markets in the Middle East and East Asia.

An always connected, always useable pocket translator like this could do much to facilitate travel, or at least spur other firms to do more to help bridge linguistic gaps for global travelers. The additional function of a WiFi hotspot also reduces the need for travelers to get cellular service for their phones in every destination. This kind of functionality could prove especially useful for travelers going to multiple destinations in a region so that travelers don’t have to acquire a different SIM card for every country.

Another tech innovation driven by Chinese travelers is a new partnership between China Mobile and UK BT Group called CMLink. The partnership will allow Chinese residents and travelers to purchase China Mobile service usable in the UK. However, because of EU regulations, the service is usable in all EU member states—meaning that Chinese travelers can experience seamless mobile service taking off from China and landing in Europe. Further partnerships like this across the world can only service to facilitate travelers and mobile users from around the world.

An always connected, always useable pocket translator like this could do much to facilitate travel, or at least spur other firms to do more to help bridge linguistic gaps for global travelers. The additional function of a WiFi hotspot also reduces the need for travelers to get cellular service for their phones in every destination. This kind of functionality could prove especially useful for travelers going to multiple destinations in a region so that travelers don’t have to acquire a different SIM card for every country.

Another tech innovation driven by Chinese travelers is a new partnership between China Mobile and UK BT Group called CMLink. The partnership will allow Chinese residents and travelers to purchase China Mobile service usable in the UK. However, because of EU regulations, the service is usable in all EU member states—meaning that Chinese travelers can experience seamless mobile service taking off from China and landing in Europe. Further partnerships like this across the world can only service to facilitate travelers and mobile users from around the world.

By far the biggest story in Chinese-travel-driven technology is mobile payments. Of course, mobile payments are by no means a Chinese innovation. Mobile payments developed early on as a means to enable individuals in developing countries to access banking-like services where banking was not as accessible. Eventually, it developed in the Western world through services like Apple Pay and Android Pay, but it’s been China where most of the innovation of mobile payments has occurred, and its spread throughout the world is driven by the Chinese traveler.

Alipay and WeChat Pay have been spread throughout the world with the sole goal of enabling the spending of Chinese travelers who at home are accustomed to buying everything from street food to gym memberships via mobile payments. For Chinese travelers, the availability of mobile payment transactions is not a “feature,” its more often than not an expectation.

Whereas credit and debit cards often incur fees while used abroad, mobile payments have no such limitations. Such services also eliminate the necessity of finding the best rates of exchange for cash currency. Moreover, nowadays most seasoned and newbie travelers are not without their phones and mobile data. Mobile payment services like Alipay and WeChat Pay are simply faster, easier, and cheaper than virtually every other payment option available.

Fundamentally, the rise of WeChat Pay and Alipay alone have made large manufacturers like Samsung and Apple stakeholders in the very Chinese-oriented world of mobile payments. Having software and hardware that works well with these platforms is necessary for their offerings to be popular in China.

Overall, the biggest trend of the past few years regarding Chinese travel, and travel in general, is that users expect to be able to do more with their phones and mobile data in more places, more easily, and for cheaper. Chinese travel is forcing firms from developed countries to reevaluate how they serve their customers better. The explosive growth of travel from China, a market that has largely skipped over the adoption of the technology of credit cards and laptops in favor of powerful cell phones with payment capabilities, has only accelerated this process.

By Mason Hinsdale Courtesy Jing Daily

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