China’s Alipay, the world’s largest online and mobile payment platform, has partnered with Cambodia’s DaraPay, allowing customers to use their Alipay wallets to pay at DaraPay’s POS payment system across Cambodia, DaraPay’s general manager Phok Ratha said this week.

“With this partnership, Chinese tourists can scan and pay with their Alipay app at all DaraPay merchants with more than 3,000 outlets in capital Phnom Penh and in Kandal, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap and Battambang provinces,” he told Xinhua.

Alipay serves over 1.2 billion users together with its regional partners and is the preferred payment method of Chinese tourists, according to a joint statement.

With the system now in place, Alipay users are no longer required to withdraw cash or perform cross-app money transfer to make payments across Cambodia, the statement said, adding that they can simply complete their purchases by scanning the special QR code available at DaraPay-enabled merchant partners.

“We are excited to work with Alipay,” Ratha said. “Through this collaboration, Alipay users can now benefit from the convenience, simplicity, and security of our integrated system and merchant partners while enjoying their vacation in Cambodia.”

With DaraPay’s more than 3,000 merchant partners, finding a store or service that accepts this integrated mobile payment should not be a trouble, the statement said.

“Whether it is a transaction at a restaurant, cafe, and supermarket or payment for services such as ride-hailing, hotel and entertainment, Chinese tourists can truly benefit by choosing the services of DaraPay’s merchant partners,” it said.

The statement said the future bodes well for the two partners with the number of Chinese tourists visiting the kingdom continuing to grow.

The Southeast Asian nation received 2 million Chinese tourists last year and the number is expected to rise to 2.6 million this year, 3 million in 2020, and 5 million in 2025, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Meanwhile, Cambodia has seen an 11% decline in the number of foreign tourists to the famed Angkor Archeological Park during the first eight months of 2019.

The ancient park attracted 1.55 million foreign tourists during the January-August period this year, down 11% over the same period last year, said the state-owned Angkor Enterprise’s statement.

It added that the Southeast Asian nation made gross revenue of US$69.4 million from ticket sales to the foreigners visiting the park during the first eight months of the year, a decrease of 11.8% over the same period last year.

In August alone, the Angkor received 158,124 foreign visitors earning US$7.15 million from ticket sales, down 21.6% and 21.5%, respectively compared to the same month last year, it said.

China, the United States, and South Korea remained the largest sources of foreign arrivals to the park.

Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon has pinned the blame on “zero dollar” tour companies for a slump in foreign tourists to the Angkor and vowed to take action against them.

“The decrease in international arrivals to the Angkor so far this year resulted from the zero-cost tours offered by some tour operators last year,” he said at a tourism seminar in July, adding that “zero dollar” tour operators had discouraged tourists to re-visit Cambodia because they got ripped off by them.

He said the “zero-dollar” tour companies took tourists to buy high-priced products, and the companies, or tour guides, got large kickbacks from the business owners.

“We’re trying our best to bring the growth of tourists to the Angkor again… if any travel agents or tour operators are found offering zero-cost tours, they will not be allowed to continue their businesses anymore,” he said. “This business practice has been damaging Cambodia’s reputation and tourism.”

Chhim Narith, Cambodian branch manager of Asian Overland Travel, said the hike of ticket prices two years ago was also a factor contributing to the fall of international arrivals to the site.

Since February 2017, the price for a one-day ticket to visit the Angkor rose from US$20 to US$37, a three-day pass increased from US$40 to US$62 and a seven-day ticket climbed from US$60 to US$72.

Meanwhile, China Daily reported that Cambodia will ban elephant rides at Angkor archeological park from next year, Apsara National Authority’s spokesman Long Kosal said.

“There are a total of 14 elephants giving rides to tourists at the Angkor archeological park, and today (Nov. 14), we had transported two elephants to a community forest in the province,” he told Xinhua. “We will continue to move all of them to the community forest by the end of this year.”

“From early 2020, there will be no longer elephant rides at the Angkor,” Kosal said. “We want those elephants to live in their natural life.”

The spokesman said for many years, elephants have been used to give rides to tourists at the Angkor and have left with them a lot of good memories.

Despite being freed to the jungle, the conservationist group will continue to take care of those elephants, he said.