Carnival Corporation is introducing Alipay mobile payments onboard all of its Asia-based ships, enabling Chinese tourists to seamlessly pay for onboard shopping, services, and experiences with their smartphones. Carnival Corp’s Costa Serena—which sails under the Costa Cruises brand out of Shanghai—will be the first ship with Alipay integration offered onboard. According to the company, the rollout will begin with the Costa Asia fleet, and may also be rolled out for ships sailing under the Princess Cruises brand.
According to a press statement made by Carnival Corp, the onboard integration will allow Chinese tourists to pay for all their onboard spending with Alipay, making Costa Cruises’ entire Asia fleet compatible with China’s leading mobile payment solution. Instead of directly paying for shopping, activities, excursions, food, and drinks with Alipay, onboard spending will be added to each guest’s cabin folio—a tab which is cleared on a nightly basis with Alipay.
Alipay, a mobile payment service operated by Alibaba spinoff Ant Financial, is becoming increasingly active in the tourism industry as it aims to become the payment solution of choice for China’s big-spending international travelers. Earlier this year, Alipay partnered with Finnair, based in Helsinki, to bring in-flight mobile payments for flights between China and Finnair destinations in Europe. Alipay is also expanding its mobile payments network to international airports with its “Airport of the Future” program—intended to enable Chinese tourists to seamlessly use its payments solutions both in China when traveling abroad.
The announcement of Carnival Corp’s partnership with Alipay comes weeks after Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)—one of Carnival Corp’s main competitors in the Chinese market—announced that it is partnering with Alibaba to strengthen marketing and customer service for its operations in China. Alibaba, which hopes to strengthen its position in Chinese travel spending, is taking the opportunity to cash in on the increasingly competitive state of the cruise industry in China, and is not providing exclusivity to its services for any of its cruise industry partners. Cruise lines, eager to provide customer experiences tailored for Chinese tourists, also seem to have no qualms about having mutual Chinese partners as long as it is in line with goals to provide a “China-centered” experience.
“Partnering with Carnival Corporation is yet another milestone for Alipay,” Angel Zhao, Vice President of Ant Financial said in a press statement. “One of the most important goals of Alipay going overseas is to provide convenient and efficient ‘cashless’ experiences for both Chinese tourists and global merchants.”