B&Bs of­fer a dif­fer­ent side of Shang­hai

China Daily European Weekly - - Front Page - By XING YI in Shang­hai xingyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

To most peo­ple, the gen­eral im­pres­sion of Shang­hai is that of a megac­ity filled with mod­ern, tow­er­ing sky­scrapers il­lu­mi­nated by a stun­ning ar­ray of neon lights come night­fall. The streets in the city are no­to­ri­ously busy and are of­ten flanked by the glitzy shop fronts of lux­ury brands.

The word tran­quil­lity is un­likely to be used to de­scribe the city. The same can be said for the term bed-and­break­fast. Af­ter all, Shang­hai is not known as a ru­ral des­ti­na­tion.

But this could soon change, with Chi­nese-style bed-and-break­fast busi­nesses, also known as minsu, sprout­ing up in dis­tricts on the out­skirts of Shang­hai to pro­vide trav­el­ers and weary city dwellers a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence of the city.

The de­vel­op­ment of minsu in China started as pri­vately owned guest­houses around tourist sites. But be­cause there are no well-known tourist sites in Shang­hai’s coun­try­side ar­eas, minsu in the city are limited to the water town of Zhu­ji­a­jiao in Qingpu district, the beach in Jin­shan district, the Chuan­sha area around the Dis­ney­land Park, and Chong­ming Is­land.

Ban Ri Xian, named af­ter an an­cient Chi­nese poem, is lo­cated on the idyl­lic Chong­ming Is­land in north­west Shang­hai. This farm-style

minsu of­fers guests the chance to ex­pe­ri­ence ru­ral life through ac­tiv­i­ties such as plant­ing rice seedlings, pick­ing fruit and har­vest­ing veg­eta­bles, as well as fish­ing and bird­watch­ing.

Busi­ness has been brisk. Ban Ri Xian is al­ways fully booked dur­ing the week­ends, ei­ther by fam­i­lies or cor­po­rate team­build­ing groups.

The minsu, which is owned by Liu Haiqing, 45, has been sin­gled out by the of­fi­cials of Gangxi town­ship as an ex­em­plar of “ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion” that oth­ers could fol­low. This ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion strat­egy, pro­posed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at the 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in Oc­to­ber last year, forms part of China’s ef­forts to boost the de­vel­op­ment of ru­ral ar­eas through tourism.

“Minsu can link many things to­gether,” says Kang Qian, deputy head of Gangxi.

“It can in­cor­po­rate ex­pe­ri­ence pro­grams, din­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties that would make tourists stay and spend.”

Among those work­ing at this minsu is Xing Haiyan, a Chong­ming na­tive who pre­vi­ously worked for a mar­ket­ing com­pany in down­town Shang­hai.

“I took up this job be­cause I wanted to show peo­ple what coun­try­side life is like. I grew up on a farm, so I know the joys of liv­ing in such an en­vi­ron­ment,” says Xing, whose job in­volves or­ga­niz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for guests at the farm, such as fam­ily daytrips.

She is also in charge of the so­cial me­dia ac­counts, and it was through this medium that Geng Li­jun dis­cov­ered Ban Ri Xian. Geng, who has lived in down­town Shang­hai all her life, loved the en­vi­ron­ment so much that she vis­ited the minsu sev­eral times last year. These short get­aways were also a good way for her son to learn things out­side the class­room, she says.

“Time seems to pass more slowly when you’re in the coun­try­side. I fee pon­der life and think about w to pur­sue.”

Xing does not plan to be an for the rest of her life; she plan her own farm-style minsu this planned 15-room build­ing wil hectares.

With lo­cal au­thor­i­ties strivin form Chong­ming into a world

log­i­cal is­land, Xing is op­ti­mistic about her busi­ness ven­ture be­cause she ex­pects more tourists to visit.

“I also want to in­spire other farm­ers to con­vert their homes into minsu. It will help them earn ex­tra money in ad­di­tion to the in­come they get from farm­ing.”

An­other area where more such busi­nesses are emerg­ing is in eastern Shang­hai, near Dis­ney­land.

Since the theme park opened in 2016, many nearby vil­lagers have trans­formed their houses into bed-and-break­fast es­tab­lish­ments to pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive to the pricey ho­tel rooms at the Dis­ney Re­sort. As part of ef­forts to reg­u­late the grow­ing mar­ket, the Pudong New Area govern­ment is­sued guide­lines re­gard­ing the de­vel­op­ment of such busi­nesses in 2016.

Au­thor­i­ties is­sued the city’s first minsu busi­ness li­cense last year to Su Yu, a project in Lian­min vil­lage.

In­stead of brand­ing it­self as a cheaper al­ter­na­tive for Dis­ney­land vis­i­tors, Su Yu of­fers a range of ac­tiv­i­ties for its guests, such as farm­ing, pizza-mak­ing, pot­tery work­shops and paint­ing classes.

The project is run by Minzhu Fux­i­ang Minsu Cul­ture, a joint ven­ture among a

minsu op­er­a­tor, a real es­tate com­pany, a col­lec­tive-owned en­ter­prise in Lian­min vil­lage and a fund.

Zhou Hao, a pub­lic re­la­tions as­sis­tant for the project, says the joint ven­ture man­aged to get house­holds in­volved in the project to agree on an an­nual rental fee rang­ing from 36,000 yuan ($5,200; 4,510 eu­ros; £3,980) to 150,000 yuan. It then helped each fam­ily de­sign their home ac­cord­ing to a unique theme. Six themed houses are avail­able.

In ad­di­tion to help­ing boost the in­comes of vil­lagers, the project gen­er­ated jobs, since each venue would re­quire chefs, se­cu­rity per­son­nel and clean­ers. Wang Guan­lun, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the project, said dur­ing the Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Minsu Con­fer­ence in June last year that the project in­jected vi­tal­ity into the vil­lage.

“When I first came to the vil­lage, I would rarely see young peo­ple. Now, many young peo­ple have re­turned to the vil­lage to work. It is these changes I see that make me proud.”

Wang Ying, who works as a con­duc­tor for the district’s bus com­pany, says life in Lian­min vil­lage has in­deed be­come more vi­brant.

“Since Su Yu opened last year, more vis­i­tors have def­i­nitely ar­rived. Our fam­ily has con­sid­ered rent­ing out our house to the com­pany, but we’ll wait and see how it goes.”

While the move to reg­u­late the mar­ket may be mu­sic to the ears of con­sumers, it has brought chal­lenges for some be­dand-break­fast op­er­a­tors.

“Our busi­ness has sud­denly be­come il­le­gal be­cause of the in­tro­duc­tion of li­cense,” says a woman who runs three home­s­tays in Pudong. “We don’t dare ad­ver­tise any­more.”

It is dif­fi­cult to ob­tain a busi­ness li­cense be­cause only reg­is­tered com­pa­nies can do so, she says, and be­com­ing a reg­is­tered com­pany re­quires the kind of cap­i­tal many peo­ple lack.

The woman also laments the costs needed to en­sure that each minsu meets govern­ment reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing safety stan­dards.

“Hav­ing to meet all these stan­dards drives up costs, thus re­duc­ing prof­itabil­ity. The de­vel­op­ment of the minsu in­dus­try needs stan­dards, but there also needs to be some sup­port from the govern­ment.”

Xu Wei­wan, di­rec­tor of the Shang­hai Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion, told Shang­hai news web­site East­day that the city is mon­i­tor­ing the de­vel­op­ment of two pi­lot dis­tricts, Pudong and Jin­shan, that have in­tro­duced minsu li­censes and guide­lines.

These re­gions have al­ready pub­lished guide­lines and is­sued 10 li­censes, Xu says, and these ac­com­mo­da­tions are usu­ally fully booked dur­ing week­ends and hol­i­days.

Over at Feng­shou vil­lage in Min­hang district, a tourism project that in­cludes many minsu was due to open in Au­gust, Shang­hai Ob­server re­ported.

Airbnb, the short-term lodg­ing ser­vice, told China Daily that it has seen a big in­crease in the num­ber of bed-and-break­fast op­er­a­tors and guests on its plat­form over the past few years.

A re­port on short-term lodg­ing ser­vices pub­lished by the State In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter in May said about 3 mil­lion minsu were reg­is­tered on­line last year, with transactions to­tal­ing 14.5 bil­lion yuan, up by 70 per­cent from 2016.

The num­ber of such ac­com­mo­da­tions in ru­ral ar­eas is ex­pected to dou­ble, and the mar­ket is ex­pected to be worth about 50 bil­lion yuan by 2020, the re­port says.

XING YI / CHINA DAILY

Minsu in dis­tricts on the out­skirts of Shang­hai pro­vide trav­el­ers and weary city dwellers a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.

PHO­TOS BY XING YI / CHINA DAILY

have been ac­knowl­edged by many as an ex­em­plar of China’s ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion pol­icy, which aims to boost de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try­side through tourism.

Minsu can in­cor­po­rate ex­pe­ri­ence pro­grams, din­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties that would make tourists stay and spend.

Shang­hai is mon­i­tor­ing the de­vel­op­ment of two pi­lot dis­tricts, Pudong and Jin­shan, which have in­tro­duced minsu li­censes and guide­lines.

PHO­TOS BY XING YI / CHINA DAILY

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