Alibaba, Marriott join hands to serve Chinese tourists abroad

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said it is teaming up with US hotel chain Marriott International Inc to expand its online-travel footprint as more Chinese venture abroad.

Chinese consumers will be able to use Alibaba's travel-service website and app to book rooms in over 6,200 hotel properties world-wide operated by Marriott including Marriott, Courtyard, Ritz-Carlton and Sheraton, Alibaba said yesterday. They can also use the Alipay smartphone payment platform they use at home when they stay in Marriott properties abroad.

Chinese e-commerce leader, Hangzhou, based Alibaba is expanding into retail categories, such as clothing, entertainment and travel bookings as appetite for international travel rises in China rises with income.

According to Marriott executives, the joint venture, which involved undisclosed investments from both companies, was meant to get more Chinese consumers into Marriott's loyalty programmes and hotel properties across the world.

Stephanie Linartz, Marriott's global chief commercial officer, said in an interview that Alibaba's understanding of Chinese consumer tastes will give the hotel company a market-share advantage.

"They have significant customer data and insights on the Chinese consumer," she said. "We're getting deep and rich into the psyche of the Chinese consumers through this partnership."

Meanwhile, Marriott said in a news release, "The joint venture will leverage Marriott International's global portfolio of brands and unparalleled hospitality expertise to revolutionise the travel experience as well as Alibaba's digital retail leadership and its role as a gateway for international brands to reach over 500 million mobile monthly active users across its platforms.

"Drawing on resources from both Marriott and Alibaba, the joint venture will manage Marriott's storefront on Fliggy, Alibaba's travel service platform. It will also market directly to Alibaba's customer base, provide a link between Marriott's loyalty programmes and Alibaba's loyalty programme, and support Marriott hotels globally with content, programmes and promotions customised for the Chinese traveler."