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Alibaba, Lawson join to sell Chinese tourists tickets for Japan sites

Advance online purchases will capitalize on rising visits

TOKYO -- E-shopping giant Alibaba Group Holding and convenience store chain Lawson will sell in China tickets for Japanese museums and other leisure facilities, bridging gaps of language and online availability to profit from steadily growing tourism.

Many Japan-bound visitors have come to value experiences over goods, yet many facilities there do not support buying tickets from overseas.

Lawson HMV Entertainment, a ticket-selling unit of the Japanese chain, will join China-based Alibaba's travel booking site, Fliggy, on Wednesday and begin operating there from the middle of this month. By September's end, it will offer tickets to several dozen facilities in Japan, including art museums and aquariums, and will later expand to offer the likes of fireworks shows and theaters.

Fliggy had around 200 million members as of the end of 2016, and draws about 10 million views per day. All Nippon Airways parent ANA Holdings sells plane tickets via the site, but no Japanese leisure facilities appear to do so as yet.

Users will be able to purchase the tickets in Chinese through Fliggy, then pick them up at dedicated terminals in Lawson stores upon arrival in Japan. The tickets' base price will be unchanged, but surcharges for handling will be added.

Lawson HMV will offer tickets to various attractions in the greater Tokyo area, including Kawasaki City's Fujiko F. Fujio Museum, dedicated to the works of a beloved children's comic artist. Besides ticket sales, the Lawson arm will also offer Chinese-language guidance and event information via Fliggy. For the Japanese facilities, the deal presents a chance to become more widely known in China.

Visiting tourists spent an all-time high of 3.74 trillion yen ($34.1 billion) on Japan travel in 2016. Some 60% of that total came from travelers from Chinese-speaking areas -- mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Binge buying of premium goods by such tourists has ebbed, but with the number of visitors continuing to grow, consumption is expanding as well.

Yet only about 3% of that tourism spending goes to amusement services. A lack of online payment options makes it difficult for tourists to buy tickets on their own for a fair number of cultural and leisure institutions. Making purchasing more convenient would open up a new base of customers.

Lawson is also equipping its roughly 13,000 stores in Japan to accept Alibaba's Alipay mobile payment service. It aims to promote its convenience-store goods to Chinese visitors coming in to get their tickets.


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