Lead developer for the Alipay solution, Tim Brook, left, and general manager of Coca-Cola Amatil vending system services, Andy Kerr, with the Alipay compatible vending machine. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

Catering to Chinese visitor market

elisa vorster
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

A Masterton company has developed world-leading payment solutions which are set to have a major impact on tourism.

The team of nine at Coca-Cola Amatil on Queen St has developed payment systems for its vending machines which are compatible with Alipay – a mobile app used by millions around the world.

It allows customers to make payments by scanning a QR code (the square pixelated box that appears on many products).

The development makes New Zealand the first country outside Asia to have Alipay-compatible Coke vending machines – and if successful the technology will be rolled out worldwide.

The general manager of Coca-Cola Amatil vending system services, Andy Kerr, said the idea was prompted by the high volume of Chinese tourists visiting New Zealand who had limited ways of spending their money, particularly on smaller items.

At home, the Chinese use Alipay almost exclusively for everything from groceries to airline tickets.

“At the moment, when a Chinese tourist arrives here they probably don’t have currency and they rarely have a credit card they can use to pay for things here. They don’t have Visa and Mastercard.”

Last year around 400,000 Chinese tourists visited New Zealand, contributing $1.7 billion to the economy.

Installing vending machines with Alipay stickers at Wellington and Auckland airports provides the opportunity for the tourists to make a purchase they had previously been unable to do.

Kerr’s forward-thinking team have been based in Masterton for almost 30 years.

His focus was to continue bringing skilled people into the region when the team needed them.

This included recruiting the lead developer on the Alipay project, Tim Brook, who moved to Masterton after graduating with first class honours in mechatronics engineering from Canterbury University.

“Occasionally we do bring in people from Wellington to help us with projects but my approach is to do less of that and try to bring people into the area to actually be employed by us.

“These guys are coming up to speed really quickly and are helping us build things like Alipay.”

Kerr said the technology shouldn’t be limited to just vending machines and could hugely benefit the Wairarapa tourism industry.

Few businesses in the area cater to the various growing niche payment markets commonly used in China, India, Europe and the United States.

“We see lots of tourists coming through here – we have buses that pull up at Solway Copthorne Hotel and they go around touring, and at the moment, maybe they aren’t going into town because there’s nowhere that will accept their money.”

Stonehenge Aotearoa in Carterton is already accepting Alipay payments, with Kerr saying more Wairarapa businesses should jump onboard.

Alipay country manager for Australia and New Zealand George Lawson described the partnership with Coca-Cola Amatil as “ground-breaking” and “a great example of how a local business can cater to the lucrative and rapidly expanding Chinese visitor market”.

“By offering a payment method that is familiar to Chinese tourists, it can breakdown the anxiety of using a foreign currency, contributing to a better overall experience while travelling.

“While being able to buy a Coke using Alipay may seem like a small gesture, it is little touches like this that visitors remember and tell their friends and families when they return home.

“As more and more brands improve their service to Chinese tourists, we can expect an increase in visitors to New Zealand who will spend more while they are here.”