WeChat Pay has hit the London market, offering Chinese tourists a mobile payment option to rival Alipay.
Payment technology firm SafeChange integrated WeChat Pay to enable mobile payment at the point of sale in Camden Market, a first for the Tencent-owned company in Britain.
The partnership marks a major stage in the Chinese firm’s cashless fintech ventures; In July, Edinburgh Tattoo announced they would be the first Scottish tourism business to be accepting payments over WeChat Pay for its 2018 show.
Ceri Davies, Operations Director of Camden Market, where over 1,000 outlets are expected to integrate WeChat Pay by March, said: “We are extremely pleased to be working with WeChat and SafeCharge to integrate WeChat Pay into our point of sales system at Camden Market.”
“We believe that this is a great way to adapt to the growing number of Chinese locals and tourists who visit the market.” The central London tourist hot-spot could be a ripe market for Asian cash flow, given that 42% of Chinese tourists last year were students. The app is not widely available for download for customers outside of China.
David Avgi, CEO SafeCharge said: “We are proud to be the first in the UK to integrate WeChat Pay at the point of sale in Camden Market. This innovative payment method is seen as the next big payment phenomenon in Europe”.
The mobile wallet system already has 938 million monthly users, more than 800 of whom are in China; nearly twice as many as rival Alipay (a division of online market Alibaba). Alipay has a stronger foothold in Europe than its rival; the former began processing payments in the UK two years ago, when the latter had just launched in Italy.
Tourists from China can already make payments with Alipay in Harrods and Selfridges. WeChat Pay has already engulfed an impressive 37% of the Chinese market even though it began ten years after Alipay. This August, Barclaycard announced a trial partnership to deploy WeChat Pay at eight retail stores.
Owned by Tencent, WeChat is the biggest social media channel in China, where it is known as Weixin. WeChat Pay processed €1.5 trillion in transactions in Europe this year alone, according to iResearch.
Chinese tourists spent $261bn while abroad in 2016, £513m of which was in the UK, according to Visit Britain. China was the UK’s 12th greatest inbound source market for spend last year, with shopping being a major draw for Chinese tourists. Last Monday, WeChat Pay launched in China’s favourite European tourist destination, France. Visitors to Munich Airport are now able to choose between Alipay and its competitor after WeChat Pay took off with Wirecard in Germany at the beginning of this week.