China: A particular challenge

No cash, no cards, no briefcase: When it comes to payment, China is truly an unusual market for the business travel industry. Still, we can look back on a success story in the PRC today.

We have maintained a presence in China for more than ten years and were already closely engaged with the country when the market there was still heavily focused on traditional behaviors, when employees booked their travel on an individual basis via the Internet or from local travel agents and payments still had to be handled in cash or through a bank.

That, in turn, gave us the ability to try out certain things back then, when the market was still in its infancy, and find out in the process which product might be a good fit for our customers. In the AirPlus Company Account, we were ultimately able to give the Chinese market what it needed: the first central payment solution for business travel.

Our systems didn’t speak Chinese.

In hindsight, though, we did face some challenges in getting there. For example, the language was a big barrier. After all, the Western World had a hard time dealing with Chinese characters. What that meant for our systems was that we had to identify the characters using a technical value first and then depict them using a translation table from our Chinese partners.

In August 2008, we were finally able to present our first payment solution to the Chinese market, thereby writing a success story that was very special to us. Maybe the fact that we deliberately chose the month of August in 2008 was a part of it, too – the number eight is a lucky number in China.

Today, China is the second largest market for AirPlus. The Company Account is used by more than 1,900 customers, and we execute nine million transactions a year. And the positive trend continues: In 2018, we posed 1.45 billion euros in sales in China, which works out to growth of 27 percent year over year. And luckily for us, interest in our products continues to rise!

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