Souheil Badran was a busy man last week as the president of Alipay North America saw his company make a number of announcements to expand the mobile wallet’s acceptance with merchants in the U.S. and Canada as more Chinese tourists visit the continent.
Alipay announced Marqeta, North American Bancard and Poynt as new partners in attempt to reach more merchants while it expanded an existing Verifone partnership to include acceptance in taxis across fleets in major Chinese tourist destinations such as Las Vegas and New York City.
Badran’s week wasn’t done as he spoke Sunday at the annual Money20/20 conference in Las Vegas to give attendees the current bird’s-eye view of Alipay’s operations in North America, particularly in the U.S.
“The approach we’ve taken is [about] partnerships,” he said during a presentation before a standing-room only crowd Sunday afternoon.
That approach ramped up this year as the number of Chinese tourists visiting North America continues to rise.
Some 3.46 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the U.S. this year. That figure was only at 800,000 in 2010, according to one study from Statistic.
Alipay saw an opportunity to expand here after it brought its brand to countries in southeast Asia, as well as other Chinese tourist hotspots such as the U.K.
“[These partnerships] enable the Chinese consumer to pay the way they want to and with something they’re comfortable with,” Badran said.
And there are a lot of those consumers as Alipay sees 523 million users on the service. Some 10 million are considered high spenders, spending anywhere between $45,000 to $75,000 in a year via the app.
That’s an unfathomable amount in the U.S. as mobile wallets here continue to struggle with widespread consumer adoption and use. But Badran said Alipay is unique in that it truly listens to consumers and adds features users ask to see in the mobile wallet.
“We took a different approach for the wallet to really be a part of everyday life [for our users],” he said.
Alipay boasts what Badran described as “sub applications” within the mobile wallet. There are 60 of them, which, include anything from an online travel agent called Fliggy, to the ability to pay for utilities and to book and pay for an Uber ride, just to name a few.
Badran expects the partnerships to continue as Alipay expands its merchant acceptance footprint in the U.S., but he made clear the company is not seeking to “replace anything” in this market. In other words, don’t expect a U.S.-based Alipay mobile wallet any time soon, if ever.