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Marriott, Alitrip tie-up to let Chinese tourists book hotel rooms via mobile
Last Updated: 2015-11-09 23:38 | Reuters-Global Times
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US-based hotel chain Marriott International Inc and Alibaba Group's online travel booking platform announced a tie-up on Monday, joining a flurry of rivals expanding their presence in China to cater to the country's growing upper-middle class.

China's economy is forecast to slow to roughly 6.5 percent growth in coming years.

However, companies such as e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings promise direct access to the country's middle class and what Marriott Asia Pacific head Craig Smith is calling a "land grab" for Chinese travelers.

"People talk about China slowing down but there is a growing middle class and that creates opportunities for companies like us," Smith said.

"It is the most important market for us outside of the US and it will continue to be," he noted.

China's growing middle class is boosting domestic and outbound travel as well as sparking a spate of travel-related transactions.

Marriott's deal announced on Monday is a commission-based tie-up with Alitrip that allows customers to book rooms with their mobile phones.

It follows a September deal with an Alibaba affiliate allowing Marriott customers to settle their bills with Alipay, a Paypal-like third-party online payments service.

Smith declined to say how much the hotel chain will save on Alitrip bookings compared with online travel agents such as Expedia Inc, but said Alitrip is "a very lucrative channel".

The number of outbound Chinese tourists is expected to double to 200 million by the end of this decade, according to a study by Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.

The study forecast domestic tourism would decline slightly in the coming years, but it is still booming.

China's National Bureau of Statistics showed a rise of 72 percent in domestic tourism in the five years to 2013, the most recent data available.

Earnings from domestic tourism rose even more dramatically during that period, up 158 percent to 2.6 trillion yuan ($409 billion).

 

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