Tourists can now use their home e-wallets when visiting the UAE

Dubai-based technology-focused investment firm Astra Tech, backed by Abu Dhabi AI firm G42, has partnered with Alibaba’s global digital payment platform Ant Group to enable tourists in the UAE to buy and pay for services through your home e-wallets without worrying about foreign currency conversions.

The service, which integrates Ant Group’s Alipay cross-border digital payment platform with Astra Tech’s PayBy merchant network, will begin this month.

It will enable more than 1.4 billion wallet users to transact seamlessly in their home currencies for Abu Dhabi’s fleet of nearly 7,000 taxis and more than 3,000 retail merchants in the UAE, Astra Tech said on Monday.

Our landmark partnership with Alipay aligns perfectly with the UAE’s commitment to improving the payments ecosystem and fostering a business-friendly environment, said Abdallah Abu Sheikh, Co-Founder of Astra Tech and Chief Executive Officer of Botim .

The new service will target tourists from countries including China, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Italy, among others, through their respective native e-wallets such as Alipay, MPay, Kakao Pay, GCash, TrueMoney and Tinaba. .

The UAE, the second largest economy in the Arab world, is investing heavily to expand its tourism sector.

In May, Dubai’s vice president and ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said tourism spending in the country had increased by 70% to 121 billion dirhams ($33 billion) in 2022, the highest in the region.

We have set ourselves the goal of reaching 40 million tourists within seven years and increasing the contribution of the tourism sector to our GDP [gross domestic product] to 450 billion Dirhams, he said at the time.

According to the report, the coronavirus pandemic has spurred a faster adoption of digital payments around the world, with digital wallets, credit and debit cards and “buy now-pay later” solutions replacing physical cash. FIS Global Payments Report 2023.

Credit cards are the most popular way to pay for e-commerce transactions in the UAE, followed by digital wallets, which account for 24% of transaction value, up from 23% in 2021, the report said.

The partnership between Ant Groups Alipay and Astra Tech's PayBy merchant network starts this month.  Photo: AstraTech

Meanwhile, global consumer spending through digital wallets will reach $10 trillion in 2025, up from $5.5 trillion in 2020, according to a report by UK-based Juniper Research.

The partnership between Astra Tech and Ant Group will facilitate settlement processes and mobile-based transactions via Alipay in both physical stores and online platforms.

Physical store customers can scan a QR code at checkouts when paying for items, then enter the amount for payment and confirm the transaction, Astra Tech said.

Retailers can also scan payment QR codes on the customer’s mobile phone. Both methods face challenges such as currency exchange, cash withdrawals, and language barriers.

Alipay and PayBy plan to expand the service with the introduction of mini-programs for merchants that could boost their engagement with customers visiting the UAE from Asia and Europe.

Our alliance with Astra Tech not only opens the door to a seamless and integrated digital payment experience in physical stores in the Middle East, but also propels us into a new era of strategic collaboration, said Guoming Cheng, general manager of Ant Group in Europe and the Middle East.

It also extends an invitation to merchants to ride the wave of digitalisation, together transform the retail landscape and become part of this innovative ecosystem.

Alibaba, co-founded by billionaire businessman Jack Ma, owns one-third of Ant Group.

In March, Astra Tech, which raised $500 million in a G42-led funding round in December, said it had obtained a MasterCard master membership license, which allows it to issue physical and digital cards under the MasterCard brand. through its PayBy and Botim platforms.

Astra Tech acquired PayBy last August and VoIP platform Botim in December.

Updated: September 5, 2023, 3:30am

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