Marriott International has teamed up with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba to form a joint venture that will give members of Alibaba’s loyalty programme access to benefits from Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).

The new agreement has been designed to enable the hotel group to tap into Alibaba’s 500 million mobile monthly users and its digital expertise, in return for offering these loyalty benefits, which will be customised for Chinese travellers.

Among these benefits will be access to personalised and VIP experiences available through the hotel group’s SPG Moments and Marriott Rewards Moments programmes. These will be customised for Chinese travellers, and will include options such as private concerts, access to premium seats at sporting events, and family-focused experiences, among others. Eligible members of Alibaba’s loyalty programme will also have access to personalised hospitality programmes from SPG’s Ambassador programme.

For travellers not currently a member of Marriott’s rewards programmes, Alibaba members can join one of them to receive member rates. Special offers will also be available through Marriott’s storefront on Alibaba’s travel service platform Fliggy, which will be managed by the joint venture.

Perhaps most convenient of all for travellers, though, is the acceptance of online payments via platform Alipay, which will be accepted at Marriott hotels in “select global markets with further expansion expected around the world”, according to the hotel group.

Marriott president and CEO, Arne Sorenson, said of the agreement: “We have long admired Alibaba’s digital expertise and deep understanding of Chinese consumers’ needs and behaviours. “By forming this partnership, we are pairing our hospitality expertise with Alibaba’s digital travel platform, retail expertise and digital payment platform, Alipay, and driving membership to our loyalty programmes. With the growing number of Chinese consumers exploring new destinations, this venture will introduce our hotels worldwide to this new and growing travelling class.”

Chinese travellers are expected to take an estimated 700 million trips over the next five years.

Marriott has been particularly focused on targeting growth in the China market. Back in March, its independent Autograph Collection made its China debut with the opening of the Shanhaitian Resort Sanya. Meanwhile last month, its first Fairfield by Marriott in the country opened its doors in Nanning, and its W Hotels brand made its Shanghai debut. The group’s Delta Hotels brand is also set to make its Asia debut in Shanghai later this year.

The group’s loyalty side has also undergone expansion, particularly in Asia. Last September, Marriott unveiled new benefits for its Li Yu hospitality programme designed specifically for Chinese travellers, while in May this year it unveiled its new integrated Club Marriott dining loyalty scheme in Asia.

Marriott also invested in price-comparison platform Placepass in March, adding the company’s more than 100,000 travel experiences to the Marriott portfolio.;