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The Wrap: Singapore Airlines teams up with Alibabas Fliggy for mileage points sharing

(Image credit: app-c1a1p1c1o1m1/iStock-Getty Images) China-based mobile payment platform Alipay has partnered with Korean tax refund agency Global Tax Free (GTF) to launch paperless mobile tax refunds in South Korea. Alipay says this solution is the first of its kind in the world, and South Korea is the first country to offer it. The new service simplifies the process for Chinese tourists to apply for and claim tax rebates for their purchases by using their mobile phone app, allowing them to skip in-city and airport tax refund counters. They just need to scan their passports at self-service kiosks prior to leaving South Korea and scan tax refund receipts on the Alipay mobile app within 90 days of purchasing to receive refunds in Chinese yuan. “Since 2013, Alipay has continuously explored ways to expedite tax refunds for Chinese tourists to enhance the outbound travel experience. Alipay users can already receive tax refunds at more than 80 airports and a growing number of in-city shops globally after processing at a tax counter,” said Danny Chung, general manager of Alipay Korea. “With this unique new function, Alipay users can skip the queue and process tax refunds on their mobiles, without filling out and submitting any paper work. This will both save time and make it easier to claim refunds.” Alipay reveals about 10,000 merchants in South Korea support the GTF tax refund service, making the country “the world’s most convenient destination for tourists to claim tax refunds”. In early 2017, Alipay launched a real-time tax refund scheme in Europe. In January this year Singapore became the first country in Southeast Asia to offer the service.

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Unpredictable North Korea is scaring off visitors for Winter Olympics

Seats are seen at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Anbritt Stengele, founder of Sports Traveler, a Chicago-based travel agency, said she's never seen such a sluggish market. "The interest level is very low for this Olympics," said Stengele. "We had Sochi ( Russia ) in 2014, and that interest level was lower than Vancouver (in 2010). But this one is even lower than Sochi. I would just classify it as extremely light interest. Sales have been stagnant." She and other travel agents say factors ranging from fears about North Korea aggression to the absence of NHL players to concerns about travel logistics have put a big damper on interest. Stengele said North Korea is a big factor, as global tensions are running high over bellicose threats exchanged by President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim has conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests this year, as well as a test of its most powerful nuclear weapon to date. Both leaders have threatened to annihilate the others' country if they order a first strike. In addition, North Korea has a massive military and huge arsenal of conventional weapons aimed at South Korea, and the possibility of a hostile incident during the Olympics is hanging in the air here.

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