B&Bs offer a different side of Shanghai
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.
Minsu in districts on the outskirts of Shanghai provide travelers and weary city dwellers a different experience.
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.