Source: China Daily | 2021-04-26 | Editor:Alison
Visitors pass by a rural homestay in Shaoyang, Hunan province, in July. [Photo by TENG ZHIZHONG/FOR CHINA DAILY]
Over a weekend earlier this month, I made a trip to the ancient city of Pingyao in North China's Shanxi province. I stayed at a minsu, which roughly translates as "Chinese-style bed-and-breakfast homestay", part of an emerging business segment in the tourism industry.
The minsu was renovated for tourists craving for a different kind of private accommodation. Its high-end furniture took me by surprise, and services were as good as those offered by star hotels.
All this helped dispel my hitherto unrecognized prejudice against bed-and-breakfast (B&B) accommodations. I had imagined that they were somehow substandard, so I tended to book hotel rooms whenever I went traveling.
This time, however, I took a chance, and ain't I glad I did. I am convinced now that there is big room for growth of high-end minsus countrywide.
My experience reinforces the belief spawned by a recent trend. Chinese tourists are increasingly chasing high-end minsus. This became more distinctive ever since the COVID-19 pandemic was brought under better control in China.
The B&B sector is embracing new growth opportunities, according to Beijing-based homestay reservation platform Xiaozhu.
During the Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday in early April, minsu bookings on Xiaozhu surged more than 510 percent year-on-year. In April, minsu reservations in rural areas jumped nearly 300 percent over March.
While I was scouring online content for some hotel options and alternative accommodations, I was attracted by images of beautiful and quaint decorations of a minsu in Pingyao. It looked very different from regular modern hotels.
Ancient city Pingyao is famed for its well-preserved buildings of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). I thought it would be better to stay at a unique place to experience the local culture.
The minsu I stayed at opened for business last year. It has only two floors and 16 rooms. It also has a delicate yard in the middle of the traditional-style building.
Many years ago, it was an academy for learning, and later the owner renovated and refurbished it, converting it into a minsu, to meet growing tourist demand for such special stays.
The facility provided complimentary pickup from, and drop-off to, the local train station, and a complimentary breakfast. It also helped travelers to contact tour guides and chartered cars, and book entry tickets for local sightseeing spots and shows.
All these value-added conveniences made my trip a breeze. The fact that the minsu offered a delightful combination of cultural milieu (in the form of fine decorations, furniture and utensils) and standard hotel-like services made my trip memorable.
To reach this stage of total customer satisfaction, China's B&B homestay sector took just a little over 13 years. The sector started operations around 2007. Back then, most of such accommodations were located in Dali and Lijiang in Southwest China's Yunnan province.
In 2013, some homestays near Mogan Mountain, a leisure tourism and summer resort in East China's Zhejiang province, started to gain in popularity. Later, minsus developed rapidly as a legitimate business.
In 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, minsu sales reached 22.5 billion yuan ($3.46 billion), up more than 36 percent year-on-year. About 200 million people had stayed at one minsu or another during that year, according to data from the Sharing Economy Research Center of the State Information Center.
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