Alibaba Group Holding, China's e-commerce behemoth, and Marriott International on Monday announced a new joint venture to streamline and upgrade the travel experience for hundreds of millions of Chinese tourists.
Leveraging the e-commerce titan's knowledge of Chinese consumer preference in the digital space, the new venture will deliver VIP travel packages, exclusive benefits to each company's membership clubs, as well as personalized trip-planning services, the companies said at a joint news conference in Shanghai.
"Together, we are elevating and redefining the travel experience for Chinese consumers to be more seamless and personalized as they embark on adventures to discover the world," said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba.
Under the agreement, Marriott properties in destinations that are popular among Chinese will accept Alipay, the payment tool owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services Group.
The JV will also manage Marriott's storefront on Fliggy, Alibaba's travel service platform, as well as the hotel chain's Chinese-language digital channels including Marriott.com, Starwoodhotels.com and corresponding mobile apps.
As a result, consumers will be able to plan, book, pay and manage a trip, as well as shop, eat and sightsee at their destinations, all by using the digital platforms of Alibaba and Marriott.
Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson said the joint venture would allow the company to tap the continuing surge in Chinese tourism both in China and internationally.
"With the growing number of Chinese consumers exploring new destinations, this venture will introduce our hotels worldwide to this new and growing traveling class," Sorenson said.
With over 6,100 properties worldwide, Marriott is planning to double its presence in China by the end of this year.
"I hope it will help us grow faster in China, and make our brands more familiar to Chinese," he said.
At the end of the day, the duo wants to create a joint loyalty program that includes benefits such as status-tier matching and the ability to exchange and redeem points between the two programs for travel planning and retail purchasing.