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A major hotel chain's decision to accept online reservations and payments from customers using bankcards issued in China could make it easier for other hotels to follow suit and help a Chinese card network increase its international profile, according to analysts and payments officials. United Kingdom-based InterContinental Hotels Group PLC last week said it signed a deal with ChinaPay E-Payment Service Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China UnionPay, to provide the card-acceptance service (CardLine Global, 13 June). The hotel group "is the first one and only international hotel [in China that will] accept local cards," Hua Zhang, a banking analyst in the China office of United States-based Celent LLC, tells CardLine Global. The hotel group is responding to growing demand from Chinese consumers for local card acceptance, a ChinaPay spokesperson tells CardLine Global, adding the move represents a "new trend" in the Chinese card market. Consumers in China made about US$1.5 billion (967.8 billion euros) worth of online travel reservations in 2006, Edmond Ip, chief operating officer of InterContinental Hotel Group Greater China, tells CardLine Global. Online reservations should reach US$15.4 billion in 2011, he says. "In China, we are seeing a 23% growth in online bookings [and] payment this year, which is a pace of growth [similar] to other Asia-Pacific markets," he says. The hotel's announcement shows that "international companies would like to accept UnionPay cards," Fei Cao, an analyst with Beijing-based research company Analysys International, tells CardLine Global. "The deal also means that China UnionPay is on the way to internationalization."

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