Alipay says its app-based payment option will bring more Chinese tourists to New Zealand if more retailers and financial institutions get on board.

Christchurch Airport is driving the alternative payment option, having launched a South Island-wide project in April last year to deploy it to local merchants.

More than 3,000 businesses in the South Island had expressed interest in using Alipay through the project, said Justin Watson, Christchurch Airport chief aeronautical and commercial officer.

"We're not surprised at the project's popularity," Watson said.

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"Christchurch Airport, and more broadly the South Island of New Zealand, are positioning themselves for significant growth that will come at the hands of the lucrative Chinese tourist market."

Alipay Australia New Zealand managing director George Lawson said offering Alipay to Chinese visitors would increase business, and have a halo-effect.

"If people have a really good time in market, if its easy, convenient, and culturally sensitive then they will recommend New Zealand to other people," he said.

More than 400,000 Chinese visit New Zealand yearly, spending approximately $1.7 billion per year. This is forecast to grow to $4b by 2020.

The shift from traditional Chinese tourist groups to more independent travellers meant there was a great opportunity for both business and tourism.

"New Zealand is already well placed; it's very green, very clean, it's already got the brand, but what we're actually seeing now is it is moving away from the organised tours into that independent traveller model and that is the kind of customer that really has a lot of ability to influence others to come and have a good in New Zealand as well."

Currently, there are 2,000 merchants offering Alipay purchases in New Zealand, and 10,000 combining figures in both New Zealand and Australia.

Alipay research shows it is the preferred payment method among Chinese with 54 per cent of the population using the app. Half a billion people in China use the app daily.

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"The way I view it, is if you make it a really good experience when people come to market then they're going to talk positively about their time to their friends and family and that will encourage more people to come," Lawson said.

"What we're trying to do is enable Chinese people when they come to New Zealand to be able to use Alipay in store. What we're literally doing is connecting New Zealand businesses with Chinese customers."

Alipay is wanting expand its offering in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Alipay is wanting expand its offering in New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

Alipay began an infrastructure rollout to merchants last year in high-density Chinese locations, tourist spots, airports and luxury shopping locations. Retailers Pandora, Michael Hill jeweller, DFS and Aelia Duty Free already offer the payment option.

It is now targeting student locations and pushing to get major tourist locations such as Auckland's Sky Tower on board.

"These are the places where we actually see Chinese visitors come to market, wanting to open their app and spend money," Lawson said.

"We know which locations to target, and that's where we're focusing our efforts to say to merchants, 'Hey, this is an area where there are a lot of Chinese, you should think about enabling Alipay'."

Alipay is also in talks with New Zealand banks and other financial institutions, Lawson said, but he could not disclose which ones.