Hawaii-based iTravLocal has set its sights on the growing Chinese travel market, hoping to connect local vendors with visitors who are accustomed to buying products and services via WeChat, the most popular mobile app and commerce platform in China.
The company says there were 120 million outbound travelers from The People’s Republic of China (PRC) last year, and predicts there will be 200 million travelers by 2020. Hawaii is a key location for the Chinese traveler, and iTRAVLocal Limited (ITL) says it has found a niche to capture this lucrative market.
Founded earlier this year, iTravLocal describes itself as a destinations and activities solution provider that works in collaboration with WeChat, “the Chinese social media platform and super app.”
WeChat boasts more than 963 users and its users spend more than 30 percent of their smartphone time within the platform. WeChat users communicate with friends and colleagues, share files, shop online, pay bills, and more. The platform has over 963 million users with over 50% of these users spending 90 minutes a day. WeChat is owned by Tencent, one of the largest companies in the world in terms of market capitalization.
iTravLocal hopes to find Hawaii companies looking to draw Chinese visitors and help them implement WeChatPay and AliPay, also a digital wallet provider, or develop mini-programs within WeChat that can target and market to the Chinese traveler more effectively.
“People conduct their personal and professional lives differently in China — mobile apps are everything.” explains iTravLocal co-founder and COO Alex Wong. “The majority pays using a digital wallet in China, from street vendors and local wet markets to convenience stores and medical offices.”
Wong says approximately 94% of this market is dominated by mobile payments.
“The fastest growing segment in tourism is the Chinese,” Wong says. “I’m encouraging Hawaii vendors to implement WeChatPay and potentially develop WeChat mini programs… the key benefit would be increasing business to mainland Chinese customers, who spend more than any other nationality when traveling.”
The profit potential is huge, Wong adds, citing a study by consulting firm iResearch that show China mobile payments hit $5.5 trillion — roughly 50 times the size of America’s $112 billion market.
“There are an estimated 200,000+ Chinese visiting Hawaii every year [and] research shows they spend far more than Japanese visitors,” he says. “In 2016, Chinese from mainland China spent $260 billion on overseas travel — an increase of $11 billion from 2015.”
Wong will be the moderator for the Social Mobile Trends session of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority Global Summit China on September 20, 2017. iTravLocal and Tencent/WeChat is also hosting an invitation-only gala event aboard the Star of Honolulu cruise ship the next day.