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Tencent to increase WeChat Pay presence in US amid boom in outbound tourism

A notice promoting WeChat Pay at a restaurant in Guangzhou Photo: Reuters

China's Internet giant Tencent will ramp up efforts to expand the presence of WeChat Pay in the United States, and is expected to connect more American merchants with the mobile payment service after July, which allows users to complete payments by scanning a quick response code on their mobile phones via the WeChat messaging app.

Yin Jie, director of cross-border operations at WeChat Pay, made the remarks during a recent interview with the Consumers News and Business Channel.

The expansion plan for the United States will not be realized by creating a local version of digital wallet on WeChat Pay. Instead, it will focus on roping in more American merchants to accept the mobile payment system to serve an increasing number of Chinese tourists, said Yin during the interview.

Earlier this month, the team of WeChat Pay explicitly said that the company will shift focus to the hot foreign travel destinations that are popular with Chinese tourists rather than fruitlessly developing the local versions of WeChat Pay for foreign users, after finding it difficult to meet the various financial obligations in foreign countries.

In terms of touting the digital wallet globally, WeChat Pay is now losing to its archrival Alipay, a mobile payment platform operated by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group's financial subsidiary Ant Financial, as the latter has marched into eight countries including India, Thailand and South Korea as well as China's Hong Kong by offering the local versions of its service since it began its international expansion in 2015.

Besides, almost all the users of WeChat Pay are from China, which is a key factor in the strategic shift to focus on Chinese tourists abroad. Pony Ma, founder of Tencent, said during this year's annual parliamentary session that the number of active global users of WeChat had surpassed 1 billion, more than 90 percent of whom are from China.

"The US is also a market we are focusing on now … after July a lot of merchants will accept WeChat Pay in the US," said Yin, adding that WeChat Pay is already available in some airports and duty-free shops in the United States.

Looking into the future of WeChat Pay in the United States, Yin said that the company will follow a two-step approach to expand the influence of the mobile payment service.

The first step is that some American merchants including duty-free stores, famous restaurants and transportation service providers which are well recognized among Chinese tourists will be selected for cooperation, followed by the second step focusing on establishing partnerships with bigger local merchants which are popular with Chinese tourists.

"WeChat Pay is just a payment product. So if the Chinese tourists want to use it and the merchants want to accept that, I think we have a market [in the United States]," said Yin, in response to fears that the escalating trade frictions between China and the United States would bar WeChat Pay from accessing the US market.

During last week's Fortune Brainstorm TECH, an annual invitation-only summer retreat for leaders from Fortune 500 companies, emerging tech entrepreneurs and key investors, Liu Qiangdong, founder of, another e-commerce giant in China, thought highly of the collaboration with WeChat, saying that one fourth of the newly added consumers are contributed by the popular social media app.

WeChat Pay is a major mobile payment channel for consumers who buy goods on

Outbound tourism craze

With the increasing number of Chinese outbound tourists in the recent years, WeChat Pay is now used as a cross-border mobile payment tool which is able to make settlements in 13 currencies in more than 40 countries and regions.

China remained the world's biggest source of outbound tourists in 2017, with the number of outbound trips growing by 7 percent year-on-year to 130 million, shows the 2017 China Outbound Tourism Travel Report jointly released by the China Tourism Academy and Ctrip, a leading travel service provider in China.

Chinese outbound tourists spent $115 billion in 2017, up 5 percent from a year earlier, according to the report.

"With the boom of Chinese outbound tourism, which focuses on consumption, we are planning to make WeChat Pay available in the hot travel destinations," said Chen Qiru, vice president of Tencent Financial Science and Technology, during a June interview with, a technology news provider in China.

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