Mauricio Macri's government has been seeking investments in China (Photo via El Pais)

Minister of Tourism Gustavo Santos announced last Tuesday that the Argentine government had come to an agreement with Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and founder of Alibaba, to commercialize tourist destinations in Asia via its platform.

The Agreement will be made official the 18th and 19th of April in Buenos Aires during the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Global Summit.

On Alibaba, Argentina will have its own pavilion (a kind of e-shop available on the website), similar to 2017 when some of the most famous Argentine wines were available for sale through the online platform.

Alibaba is one of the world's ten most valuable company (Photo via CGTN)
Alibaba is one of the world’s ten most valuable company (Photo via CGTN)

Such an experiment will open Argentina to a massive market of 1.7 billion potential clients; the website has over 580 million active users each month. According to the Ministry, the number of Chinese tourists is low in Argentina, but growing: there were 32,000 in 2015 and 68,000 in 2017, a rather small share of the 5,000,000 people who visit Argentina every year. The government hopes to raise the number to 150,000 by 2019, which will still trail the top destinations Chinese tourists choose; as a comparison, more than two million visited Paris last year, despite the terrorist threats.

The money these travelers bring to the country could be colossal, as Chinese tourists are among the biggest spenders of the world. According to The Telegraph, in 2015 they spent US$ 300 billion abroad, making them the top spenders ahead of the Americans, who spent nearly three time less despite having the same numbers of travelers. Yikes.

However, Gustavo Santos tried to maintain a sense of proportion. “The first ones who will make money will be the Chinese travel companies, because they have been selling in Argentina for years and they have a better knowledge of the Chinese market, but this market is open to any agency which could work under the conditions required by Alibaba.” To ensure that the deal would be beneficial for Argentina, the Minister uses the example of Canada, where “it was a success.”

Founder of Alibaba Jack Ma along with Mauricio Macri (Photo via Clarin)
Founder of Alibaba Jack Ma along with Mauricio Macri (Photo via Clarin)

Alibaba is the most powerful e-commerce platform in the world, ahead of Amazon. Every day, more than 20 million people sell and buy from all over the planet, especially in Asia.
Jack Ma, its founder, came to Argentina to talk with Mauricio Macri in May 2017 where they launched the Argentine pavilion dedicated to wines. He is China’s richest man, with a net work of US$ 42.4 billion; Forbes has frequently listed him as one of the world’s most powerful people, at only 53 years old.

The plan for Argentina is to have the pavilion set up in July or August of this year, in order to meet the high-demand expected on November 11, also known in China as “Single’s Day” (because the date is only made of one, 11/11), which is the local equivalent of Black Friday. Websites such as Alibaba offer incredible discounts, and on the day more money is exchanged than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Finland, for example, sold 5,000 trips to the Scandinavian country on Single’s Day last year to Chinese tourists.

“Chinese people travel within Asia but don’t really go outside their continent,” said the Minister (who clearly has never seen the streets of Paris, London or New York crowded with Chinese visitors during the holidays), hoping that this measure would create a desire to visit Argentina. South America only represents 2.6 percent of the global travels on the five continents, but the government of Mauricio Macri put tourism on top of their list of sectors to develop, in the most ecological way possible. The government hopes to reach 9 million travelers in 2020, which would create 300,000 new jobs.