ASIA. Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise group, has introduced cashless Alipay payment services on its ships in Asia, including those in China.
The move will enable Chinese guests in the region to pay for products onboard using the mobile payment platform, said to be the most popular in China.
Carnival’s largest brand in China – Costa Cruises – has launched the service this month. Passengers can now use their Alipay accounts to pay for all onboard spending, including shopping, food and drinks, activities and excursions. These are added to guest cabin folios as purchases are made, and then cleared nightly via their Alipay account.
Alipay has debuted on Costa Serena in China with expansion expected to Costa Atlantica, Costa Victoria and Costa Fortuna in China during the year. Costa neoRomantica, which has been homeported in Japan since April this year, will follow.
Alipay – which has over 450 million users in China – is operated by Ant Financial Services Group, a related company of Alibaba, the largest online commerce company in the PRC.
The deal means that Carnival Corporation’s other leading brand in the region, Princess Cruises, also has the potential to offer Alipay on its ships sailing in Asia, including the all-new Majestic Princess that begins its first homeport season in Shanghai this July. “It is the first cruise ship tailor-made for the Chinese market,” said Carnival. However, future roll-out plans are not yet confirmed.
Riding the digitalisation wave
Carnival Corporation wants to ride the digitalisation wave to give cruise guests in Asia a more seamless experience. Costa Group and Carnival Asia Group CEO Michael Thamm, who oversees operations in China for Carnival Corporation, commented: “As we continue to grow interest and demand for cruising within the larger vacation market in China, this is another example of being able to stay close to our guests – understanding their needs and tailoring our offerings to their preferences.”
Carnival is a core cruise operator in China with six ships based in the market across the Costa and Princess brands. The company handles four million passenger cruise days and nearly half of the overall cruise market in China, it claims.
Alipay, meanwhile, is increasingly targeting the travel channel. Angel Zhao, COO of International Business Unit and Vice President of Ant Financial, said the company has been offering payments on some flights between China and Europe “since this Lunar New Year Chinese”. He added: “One of the most important goals of Alipay going overseas is to provide convenient ‘cashless’ experiences for both Chinese tourists and global merchants.”