Exclusive: Indonesia plans to use Alipay for tourism payments

By Chia Jie Lin

Digital is a strategic priority, says Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism.

Indonesia plans to work with Alipay to allow tourists to make digital payments, Arief Yahya, Minister of Tourism for Indonesia, told GovInsider today.

“Payment companies like Alipay have to be integrated in one digital tourism platform,” he said. “We are going to cooperate with the biggest ones, like Expedia or Alipay”.

Alipay is one of the largest e-payment platforms in China, where the smartphone app is growing to deliver government services, like fine payments, bus fares and utility bills. Nearly two million Chinese tourists visited Indonesia last year - double that of arrivals in 2015. The Chinese are now the largest group of foreign tourists in the country.

Payments is part of the Indonesian tourism ministry’s broader vision to use technology to support the industry. “Our number one strategic initiative is [to] go digital,” the Minister said. “We believe that [by] using digital we can go faster compared to others. So payments in this case is very important.”

Indonesia is catching up with a tourism e-payments trend growing from elsewhere. For instance, Japan will offer biometric payments for tourists by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Tourists can register their fingerprints when they first arrive at the airport. This allows them to make purchases that are free from local taxes, and check-in at hotels without their passports.

As 70% of Indonesia’s tourists now book their holidays online, instead of using travel agents, the government must promote the country’s brand in new ways too. “There is actually no other choice, except using digital as our medium, especially for promotion.”

Its latest partnership is with Expedia to collect data insights on foreign tourists and develop marketing strategies to make Indonesia a more attractive holiday destination. The ministry will draw data from the company’s search platforms to understand what tourists want and where they want to go - allowing the ministry to reshape their marketing campaigns according to tourist needs.

Indonesia will work with tech companies like Google, Expedia and Alipay to develop digital tourism platforms, rather than build its own from scratch, the Minister said. “Companies like Google, Expedia, and payment companies like Alipay have to be integrated in the ecosystem of ‘look, book, pay’,” he shared. These companies have large platforms and a huge amount of data that it can use to provide tourists with personalised information.