Making room beyond hotels
Chinese outbound travelers are looking for new types of accommodation. Traditional hotels are passe. Stays at private apartments are in.
That’s creating huge opportunities for US lodging services. For instance, Airbnb Inc, which operates a peer-topeer or P2P website for accommodation sharing, has more than 2 million listings and connects over 50 million users in more than 34,000 cities of 190 countries.
The San Francisco-based Airbnb, which was founded in 2008, said it has high hopes for the Chinese market. China is the fastest growing market for Airbnb because more and more younger Chinese travelers prefer a unique traveling experience, said Varsha Rao, vice-president of global operations at Airbnb.
The number of Chinese outbound tourists who booked accommodation through Airbnb has increased by a staggering 700 percent in 2015, according to Airbnb.
That has made Airbnb prominent among the businesses currently riding the sharing economy concept. Those include Chinese lodge-booking sites like Zhubaijia, Tujia and Xiaozhu, which are catching up fast, thus driving the growth of this segment in China.
For instance, Shenzhenbased Zhubaijia goes to great lengths to ensure apartments onits list are of high quality. It also provides a series of valueadded services like airport pickups, car rentals and tickets to tourism attractions.
In 2015, Zhubaijia’s revenue grew 68 times to 45.69 million yuan ($6.74 million) from the previous year, with 79 percent of it coming from the lodging business.
It has more than 250,000 listings in 70 countries. The number of users has increased by nearly 80 times in 2015 compared with 2014.
In April, it listed on China’s New Third Board, which serves as a national share transfer system forSMEsand a source of funds, thus becoming China’s first listed sharing-economy company.
According to the National Tourism Administration data, 120 million Chinese traveled to other countries in 2015, up from 109 million the previous year.
As for China’s domestic tourism, there were over 4 billion journeys in 2015, generating a revenue of over 4 trillion yuan. The accommodation-sharing segment in China is far from saturated, industry observers said.
Tujia.com, which targets middle- to high-end Chinese travelers, is the industry leader in the domestic short-term online rental segment. It has a network of 430,000 rental properties, ranging from single rooms to historic farmhouses and country villas.
In June, Tujia acquired mayi.com, another wellknown name in China’s house-sharing sector, to consolidate its leading position in the Chinese market.
“More and more families are expected to shift from booking hotel rooms during vacations to reserving lodges through online platforms as non-standardized private apartments can better meet their needs,” said Pan Caifu, vice-president of Xiaozhu, which enables users to book spare rooms or apartments of others via an online P2P platform.
Founded in 2012, theXiaozhu website and its accompanying app sawa fivefold jump inbookingsbetween2014and 2015.