Visitors from Britain hang red lanterns at residential quarters in Zhangjiajie city, Hunan province. [Photo/Xinhua]
This Spring Festival holiday, homestay bookings by Chinese tourists might have more than doubled from a year ago, according to industry projections.
Southern city Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, has topped other Chinese cities in terms of bookings for shared accommodation, according to data from San Francisco-based Airbnb, a firm that provides online bookings for such homestay services.
Against the backdrop of ongoing consumption upgrade, more Chinese people chose to spend the seven-day Chinese Lunar New Year holiday in warmer southern cities in China.
The trend has driven up demand for short-term rental apartments, said Li Zhenni, chief brand officer of Chinese homestay booking platform Tujia.
The firm saw its shared bed-and-breakfast bookings surge about four times year-on-year during the holiday period, with coastal cities of Xiamen in Fujian province and Sanya in Hainan province attracting more tourists, thanks to their agreeable weather in winter and well-appointed shared lodges.
Family reunion dinners at homes in the run-up to the Spring Festival have gradually evolved into holiday time. Families, led by the younger generation, are preferring to travel during the holiday period.
"Tourists from the Chinese mainland have visited 1,048 cities across 111 nations and regions during the Chinese New Year holiday, including conventional hot spots like Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, the US, South Korea, Italy, Spain, the UK, Russia, France, as well as niche destinations such as Iceland," said Peng Tao, president of Airbnb China.
Chinese born in the 1980s and 1990s are more open, sharing, and tech-savvy, and they are the core consumers of online services for booking shared accommodation. Such consumers love to have authentic life experiences, he said.
Nearly 60 percent of them prefer to travel together with more than three family members or friends during the Chinese New Year holiday.
Quite a few among Tujia's homestay users booked their accommodation online in advance. The popular online bookings app is partly enabled by technologies like big data, artificial intelligence (in the form of smart e-recommendations) and virtual reality (that helps create 3-D or immersive content portraying the accommodation facilities). This helps the users to make informed choices and makes decision-making efficient, said Li.
Compared to hotel rooms, shared accommodation with facilities for cooking, laundry and local characteristics is a better choice for family travels, thus improving the standard of living, she said.
According to travel predictions for 2019 by Booking, a website for travelers, travel with experiences at its core was one of the major travel trends last year. And 2019 will extend the trend. For 60 percent of travelers, experiences are now valued higher than material possessions.
"In the past few years, China's home-sharing industry has developed rapidly and healthily, and more and more high-quality accommodations are available with special characteristics," said Peng.
He also said the improving quality of interactions between landlords and short-term tenants is an important attraction for travelers who are increasingly steering clear of traditional hotels.
China's home-share market sales reached 14.5 billion yuan ($2.15 billion) in 2017, up 71 percent year-on-year. This figure is expected to reach toward 50 billion yuan by 2020, said a report published by the State Information Center, a public institution affiliated to the National Development and Reform Commission.
About 50 million units of homes across China are available, which can meet the requirements of travelers' online booking for short-term stays, said Li.
Airbnb's inbound tourism contributes more than half of its total China business, and it expects its China division business to nearly triple in the second half of 2018, according to Peng.
"China is a large market full of opportunities for us to expand. It has a unique marketing environment and customer behavior for us to adapt our strategy to fit the market better," said Booking in a written reply to China Daily.
With the booming tourism industry and ever-growing consumer demand, more Chinese consumers will consider travel as a necessity and be eager to enjoy traveling overseas and in China. They think high-quality and personalized travel can improve their own value, it said.