Alibaba Group’s online travel platform, Fliggy, is launching a new service that allows Chinese travellers to shop online at duty-free and tax-free shops, international retailers and specialty stores overseas before they head off on vacation.

Called Fliggy Buy, the service gives Chinese consumers detailed information and product reviews in their own language prior to reaching their destination, picking them up after they arrive. This will allow travellers to spend more time exploring and experiencing the destination, Fliggy said, rather than losing that time to in-store shopping.

For merchants, it’s a chance to capitalize on a tourism market that saw Chinese travelers take 140 million outbound trips last year, up 13.5% since 2017, and spend an average of 9% more on their overseas trips in 2018, according to Fliggy.

“The launch of Fliggy Buy represents our latest move to work with merchants targeting the vast numbers of tourists from China to develop innovative solutions, and offer them targeted customer traffic,” said Roman Zhu, head of Fliggy Buy.

“Our aim is also to embrace the potential of digital technology and provide a holistic travel experience encompassing food, accommodation, transportation, sightseeing, shopping and entertainment,” he said.

The Fliggy Buy service is part of Alibaba’s “Global Fun” initiative, which promotes overseas travel for Chinese consumers by working with international merchants to give consumers a richer experience while abroad, Fliggy said. Outbound tourism is a key part of the travel platform’s business, with users visiting 192 countries and regions in 2018.

Chinese travellers can choose from a range of products, including cosmetics, suitcases, bags and alcohol offered by popular merchants, and choose a store at which to pick up their items. The service is still in its early stages, as so far Furla Hong Kong and Laox of Japan are selling on the channel. But more merchants are expected to join.

Zhu said that duty-free and tax-free stores were the priority during the first phase of Fliggy Buy’s launch because they were the most-visited shopping venues among Chinese outbound travelers.

“Our next step is to enrich the product categories on Fliggy Buy and recruit more overseas merchants to include high-end luxury brands, household electronics sellers, as well as pharmacy and cosmetics stores, assisting them to reach more Chinese consumers,” he said.