Alibaba Group’s digital payments platform Alipay is coming to Australian streets, literally, with a new initiative allowing Melbourne buskers to use the system to accept payments from locals and Chinese visitors.
Alipay, which is owned and operated by Alibaba subsidiary Ant Financial, has launched the project in collaboration with local payment partners Quest Payment Systems and Supay Technology, with 15 to 20 Melbourne buskers to pilot the program ahead of a national rollout.
The program will be restricted to buskers licensed through the City of Melbourne.
Passers-by will be able to use tap-and-pay facilities to donate payments or purchase merchandise using bank-issued cards, while Chinese visitors will also have the option of using Alipay.
Alipay Australia and New Zealand country manager George Lawson said the pilot would run for four to six weeks, and if the initiative was successful, it would be rolled out across the country.
“Buskers are part of the social and cultural fabric of Melbourne and Alipay saw an opportunity to use our technology to help visitors show their appreciation,” Mr Lawson said.
“The program is a win-win; the 600,000 Chinese visitors arriving in Melbourne every year get greater access to the city’s culture, while buskers growth their audience and have a more practical way to accept funds.”
Supay project lead Loic Liao said the concept would allow buskers to capitalise on the same opportunities that local businesses had in tapping into the growing spending of Chinese visitors.
Data from Tourism Research Australia, released earlier this month, showed Chinese tourists were responsible for more than half of the total growth in international visitor spending in the 12 months to the end of March.
TRA said spending by Chinese tourists rose by $1.3 billion over the period, to reach $10.9 billion.
Mr Liao said that by providing QR payments facilities, retailers could show Chinese visitors that they were welcoming and respectful.
“By using Alipay to accept payment, it gives Chinese people the confidence to spend and removes anxiety about a foreign currency.”
Quest head of SME and Alternative Payments Luke Fuller said the initiative was the latest in the company’s efforts to help ease the economy’s transition away from cash.
“While many businesses are thriving with the shift to digital payments, there are pockets of society that have been left behind and the busking community is one of they,’ Mr Fuller said.
“This program is about levelling the playing field for buskers and giving them every opportunity to continue doing what they love – entertaining.”