London Heathrow airport announced today that it will allow customers to pay in duty free using Wechat, a wildly popular Chinese app.
Wechat has more than a billion monthly active users, many of whom use it as a one-stop-shop for mobile payments and banking, messaging, e-commerce, voice calls, gaming and sharing posts.
Merchants at Heathrow World Duty Free use payment services company SafeCharge’s mobile point-of-sale app that allows merchants to accept QR code-based payment methods.
It is the first UK airport to take payments via Wechat Pay, which is already accepted in airports including Singapore’s Changi.
Safecharge said the move would help vendors attract Chinese customers and could offer marketing opportunities such as coupons and cash-back promotions.
In August 2017, KLM became the first non-Chinese airline to accept ticket and ancillary payments using WeChat Pay.
British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz, told Business Traveller earlier this year that he hoped to see Chinese mobile payments introduced this year, describing the move as “a no brainer”.
Last year 145 million Chinese took overseas trips and were the biggest spenders internationally. Despite visa restrictions, 337,127 of those visits were to the UK, according to VisitBritain, up 29.45 per cent on the previous year – while expenditure was £694 million, up 35.16 per cent.
Swiss firm Global Blue estimates that Chinese shoppers accounted for 43 per cent of global tax-free shopping spend in 2017.
“Chinese shoppers are among the most tech savvy in the world, and take the ability to go cashless and make mobile payments at home for granted,” said Safecharge CEO David Avgi.
“With Chinese tourism growing at a 20 per cent rate every year, it has become vital for merchants to adapt to offer these valued customers the service and experience that they expect – and that means accepting Chinese alternative payment methods whether online, in their shops, pop-up stores or outdoor markets in order to remain competitive.
“Our new SafeCharge Point of Sale App has been developed to help businesses serve an increasing number of customers who normally default to QR code-based payments methods, for a better shopping experience and increased revenues.”
Tony O’Donnell, UK Financial Controller at World Duty Free, said, “Since the initial rollout in Terminal 4 we have seen a steady increase in transaction volumes and are currently in the process of extending this capability across the other Heathrow terminals.
“SafeCharge has been instrumental in supporting our fast deployment with high level quality support and we look forward to working closely with the team as we continue to expand across more locations and concessions.”