Marriott International has become the latest travel company to make a big play for the China market with a new partnership with Alibaba.
Marriott and Alibaba have announced a joint venture that will see Alibaba, a China-based online and mobile commerce company, manage Marriott’s storefront on Fliggy, Alibaba’s travel service platform. The joint venture will also market directly to Alibaba’s customer base, provide a link between the two companies’ loyalty programs and support Marriott hotels globally with content, programs and promotions customized for the Chinese traveler.
The joint venture will also offer personalized, curated experience for Chinese travelers, as well as allow Alipay, Alibaba’s e-wallet service, to be accepted at Marriott hotels in select global markets, with further expansion planned around the world.
In announcing the joint venture Marriott cited the rise of China’s middle class, with Chinese travelers expected to take an estimated 700 million trips over the next five years, Marriott said.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) announced a similar agreement with Alibaba in May aimed at marketing cruises to a Chinese audience. Norwegian Cruise Line, which is owned by NCLH, also recently launched a custom-built ship for the China market, the Norwegian Joy. Other cruise companies, such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation, have also planned major deployments aimed at the Chinese cruise market.
According to a 2016 study by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruises in Asia grew 24 percent between 2014 and 2015, with more than 2.08 million passengers taking to the waves in 2015. At the time CLIA President and CEO Cindy D’Aoust said that the booming market means more port destinations for North American travel agents to sell to experienced cruise clients.