Rural homestays rule the roost amid COVID recovery
08/28/2020|11:43:55 AM|China Daily

As the COVID-19 outbreak increasingly comes under better control in China, the country's short-term vacation rental industry is also gradually recovering, with rural homestays and short-distance travel gaining popularity among Chinese tourists.

According to a report from the Sharing Economy Research Center under the State Information Center, revenue from China's shared accommodation sector increased month-on-month by 78%, 199% and 35%, respectively, from March to May, while order numbers rose by 141%, 152% and 50% over the same period.

During the first five months of the year, transaction volume of the shared accommodation market fell by 72.1% on a yearly basis due to the pandemic, with the number of bookings dropping 65% compared with the same period last year.

The report also said revenue of the country's homestay services industry reached RMB 22.5 billion in 2019, an increase of 36.4% year-on-year.

The China branch of US-based Airbnb said rural homestays are popular choices for leisure travel, given the need for physical distancing in the wake of the pandemic.

Bookings of rural homestays were mainly for kezhan (small-scale Chinese-style homestays), farm stays, cottages and villas, all of which have witnessed robust growth as the outbreak comes under better control.

"Pent-up travel demand is being unleashed rationally. In the short term, short-haul trips will become the norm, while rural tours are becoming increasingly popular choices. Cleanliness and hygiene of accommodations will also be a top priority for Chinese tourists," said Peng Tao, president of Airbnb China.

"Travel is one of the most resilient industries in the world," Peng said. He is bullish on the travel and tourism prospects and the short-term rental sector, saying demand for weekly and monthly rentals has surged during the pandemic.

"Based on our latest survey, nearly 60% of hosts said they were willing to accept more weekly and monthly rentals to alleviate operational pressure," he added.

Data from Chinese homestay listings provider Xiaozhu also showed the recovery of rural homestays is much faster than short-term urban rentals.

Orders from Xiaozhu's official online store in Fliggy, Alibaba's travel service platform, surged by 600% in the second quarter compared with the first quarter. Visitors splurged to see natural scenery, experience traditional villages and soak in local customs and culture to get away from the pressures of urban life.

Moreover, the quality of rural homestays is improving as some operators are learning to add more dining and entertainment items, such as offering local cuisine or designing themes such as meditation, hiking and yoga.


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