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Marriott International has established a joint venture with Alibaba
Group Holding Ltd. to serve the "hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers
traveling abroad and domestically every year," Marriott announced.
Marriott's storefront will be managed on Alibaba's Fliggy travel
service platform, formerly known as Alitrip. Marriott and Alibaba also will link
their loyalty programs, and Alibaba will create content, programs and promotions
customized for Chinese travelers. Marriott also will accept Alipay, one of China's
top mobile payment providers, in select global markets.
The partnership plays upon Marriott's massive global
portfolio of brands and hospitality expertise, as well as Alibaba's digital retail
capabilities, through which it reaches more than 500 million mobile monthly
active users across its platforms.
"We have long admired Alibaba's digital expertise and deep
understanding of Chinese consumers' needs and behaviors," said Marriott
president and CEO Arne Sorenson. "With the growing number of Chinese consumers
exploring new destinations, this venture will introduce our hotels worldwide to
this new and growing traveling class."
Marriott is no stranger to working with Alibaba; Marriott global
chief commercial officer Stephanie Linnartz during the company's investor day on
March 21 noted that Marriott previously engaged a segment of Alibaba's most frequent
travelers in Marriott Rewards, significantly boosting loyalty program membership
in the Chinese market.
This new relationship could prove to be an even greater boon
for Marriott at a time when U.S. and European hoteliers are tweaking their marketing,
programming and product offerings to appeal to China's outbound travel market. Chinese
travelers are projected to take an estimated 700 million trips over the next five
years, according to Marriott. Digital capabilities will prove paramount for companies
looking to capture that traveling population, as China is expected to account for
a quarter of worldwide digital travel sales by the end of 2021, according to eMarketer.
In a LinkedIn post, Sorenson expanded on the
value of digital partnerships: "Our aging travel framework is plagued by
cumbersome visa processes, waiting in long lines and a reliance on paper
documents—largely unchanged since the 1950s. With modern technologies and the
right tools, we can construct a new framework for the future of travel to keep
us connected and make us all safer." Sorenson said that, together, Alibaba
and Marriott want to make travel smarter, "to modernize technologies that
move us to a future where international travel is enabled by a digital traveler
identity, built with unique biometrics."
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