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An exclusive partnership between Accor and Alibaba

A five-year partnership has been signed at the 2019 China International Import Expo. Accor and Alibaba are thus strengthening their presence and impact on the Chinese tourism market.

This partnership, announced during the ceremony which Accor attended alongside other French companies accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron on an official trip to China, is based on a five-year strategic plan. The latter encompasses "a range of digital applications and loyalty programs that will improve the experience of consumers and travellers".

This alliance brings synergies between Fliggy (Alibaba's travel subsidiary) and Accor, through the integration of the French group's offer into the Chinese marketplace, for different types of products (hotels, restaurants, experiences, lifestyle services, etc.). The payment service will be managed by Alipay, another Alibaba subsidiary specialised in online payment. This is therefore another step towards the digitalization of the hotel sector, as Gary Rosen, Accor's regional director in China, pointed out : "this partnership will contribute to the revolution in the tourism sector soon to be inspired by the Accor group's new loyalty program, ALL - Accor Live Limitless".

As part of this partnership, a new offer has been specially designed for Chinese travellers, the "Haoke" program (which means "Welcome"). This includes Chinese catering in the properties, an information service in Chinese and a chinese-speaking team. Gary Rosen recalled that the group has defined a "China 2020" programme, which is both "offensive and visionary digital" and "aimed at capitalizing on the growth of the Chinese travel market". Angel Zhao, President of Fliggy and Senior Vice President of the Alibaba Group, explains the openness to the world that this program will be able to offer Chinese travellers, by offering "the opportunity for a new generation of younger customers to discover the Accor Group's hotel portfolio and lifestyle offers".

Daniel Zhang, Executive President and CEO of the Alibaba Group, explains the importance of the tourism sector for the digital company: "Over the past 20 years, Alibaba has been built on two components, one dedicated to consumers and the other to companies. Travel is an essential component of our consumer business, whose mission is to facilitate and stimulate sales. Alibaba's commercial operating system enables the group to support tourism players towards the full digitalisation of their activities: from sales to marketing, brand development, member management and service innovation".

This alliance takes place in a more global context of strengthened economic exchanges between the two countries, France and China, or on a larger scale, between the West and the Middle Kingdom. The rapprochement between the two worlds is particularly strong in the tourism sector, as the respective coutries are exchanging more and more travelers. Measures have been taken to improve the reception of tourists. For example, the Alipay service opened to foreign customers staying in China, offering them the opportunity to use a prepaid card from Bank of Shanghai. Indeed, foreign tourists cannot pay by Visa, Mastercard or American Express, since China does not accept these credit cards. On the other hand, Chinese tourists in Paris have can pay with a QR code from Alipay or WeChat Pay applications (owned by Tencent) at Galeries Lafayette shops.

The two Chinese GAFAs (or BATX), Alibaba and Tencent, are precursors and pioneers in this rapprochement. With a considerable size in Asian markets, their arrival in the foreign travel industry will only reinforce their huge penetration rate, with 700 million users for Alibaba alone. For more information on the BATX and their arrival in the world of tourism and hospitality, read our report Who will tomorrow' giants of tourism be?.

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