Wellington businesses and tourist operators will soon have easy access to millions of Chinese customers through one of the world's largest online platforms.
The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Christchurch Airport, granting Wellington tourist organisations use of the airport's store on Fliggy, Alibaba's travel portal, which boasts more than 200 million members.
Similar to Expedia, Fliggy allows customers to book travel-related products such as flights, accommodation, tours and product bundles.
The agreement will allow small to medium sized businesses to use data from the airport's agreement with Alibaba to better market and advertise their products on Tmall Global, Alibaba's "online mall" and the largest business to consumer website in the world.
Businesses will be able to sell products from boutique chocolate to Wairarapa wine on the platform and ship them directly to consumers in China.
Through both Fliggy and Tmall, brands develop and operate their own branded stores within the online mall. Christchurch Airport has created a "South" store, focusing on the South Island, while Wellington businesses will have a separate section dedicated to their region.
Access to the Chinese behemoth's payment platform system, AliPay, will also begin to be ramped up in the capital under the agreement, with businesses provided support to set up and advertise within the app.
A select few Wellington businesses, such as Te Papa and Weta Workshop, have already introduced AliPay, which is used by more than 520 million Chinese people each month.
AliPay is the preferred way for Chinese consumers to both find businesses and pay for goods and services.
Ian Phillips, manager of strategic projects and retail at Weta Workshop, said customers started using AliPay within 15 minutes of the payment method going live.
"We've had it in place just over 12 months now . . . we saw immediate uptake, which was obviously encouraging."
Phillips said Chinese customers did things differently to those in the western world - when Weta Workshop staff visited China there were even restaurants where they could not pay in cash.
Many people used their mobile phones to pay for goods and services, he said.
AliPay works much like paywave, with customers scanning a QR code on their phones to pay at the counter. The machine sits alongside other eftpos machines and was easy to set up, he said.
About 3-5 transactions each day at their main visitor location were made through AliPay.
"We're happy to kind of liaise or chat with other operators . . . it's a pretty low impact in terms of setting it up."
The agreement with Christchurch Airport will give Wellington direct access to the Chinese market, WREDA general manager of regional development, destination and attraction David Perks said.
"A key part of that exposure is to get more Wellington businesses accepting payments through AliPay and WePay, which are used by nearly every Chinese tourist."
Christchurch Airport chief aeronautical and commercial officer Justin Watson said the agreement had enormous potential.
"This is a great example of two parts of the country working together to grow New Zealand's collective tourism and export success. In short, the agreement between the airport and WREDA will enable Kiwi businesses to connect and do business with the record number of Chinese visitors coming to New Zealand – before, during and after their trip."
Watson expects the agreement to spark significant interest from businesses in and around the Wellington region.
"AliPay has 800 million Chinese users, Fliggy has 220 million members and Tmall Global has more than 515 million. This presents a huge opportunity. "
The agreement comes after it was revealed Wellington is the New Zealand city most Chinese want to visit on their trip.
More than 3000 recent Chinese travellers surveyed by Hotels.com had Wellington at the top of the respondents' wish list (52 per cent), followed by Auckland (45 per cent) and Queenstown (31 per cent).