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Home-sharing services gather pace, grow fast

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-04 07:30

Home-sharing services gather pace, grow fast

Tourists barbeque and make pizza in the open air kitchen of a B&B called Prodigy Outdoor Base in Moganshan of Zhejiang province. [A Yuan/for China Daily]

Airbnb Inc, a US-based home-sharing service provider, is ramping up its efforts in the Chinese market, doubling its investment and tripling its Chinese workforce this year, to focus on millennials who are looking for a new travel experiences around the world.

"We are confident of our long-term growth in China. China is one of our most important markets globally," said Ge Hong, vice-president of Airbnb in charge of China business.

Home-sharing services gather pace, grow fast

Ge Hong, vice-president of Airbnb in charge of China business. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Since 2008 to date, there have been more than 5.3 million Chinese guest arrivals at Airbnb listings all over the world, and we have seen a 142 percent increase in outbound travel last year."

Ge said the millennials have been the main user group of Airbnb China, and most of them come from Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

The home-sharing player has established an engineering base in China, the only one outside North America, to adapt quickly and meet Chinese users' peculiar requirements.

In March, it announced it would adopt a new Chinese "Aibiying", which means welcome each other with love, and stepped up efforts to localize its services in China.

For instance, it accepts online payments via Alipay and WeChat during sign-ups. It also provides 24x7 customer support in Chinese language. Moreover, it has formed partnerships with several cities by signing memoranda of understanding.

Ge said: "We have cooperated with Shanghai Putong district, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. By providing training programs and encouraging entrepreneurship, we help them benefit from sharing economy, which involves local tourism development and cultural communication. We are also working with the China Tourism Academy to boost Chinese tourism.

"China continues to be a key priority for Airbnb. We believe that we will continue to develop strongly in this market."

According to Airbnb, the most popular international destinations of Chinese travelers on Airbnb are France, Japan, South Korea and the United States. The average age of Chinese guests is 30, and more than 85 percent of them are under 35.

Founded in August 2008 and based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a major player in the international sharing economy, having connected more than 150 million users in more than 65,000 cities and towns in 191 countries.

Such big numbers have made safety and privacy of travelers a top priority, Ge said.

"We require both hosts and guests to provide their identities, and we provide ways for hosts and guests to communicate and get to know one another before a booking occurs. Our community builds trust and a track record of users to be able to learn more about each other through publicly available reviews and feedback."

It also offers host protection insurance and a $1 million host guarantee to help protect hosts and their listings from harm.

Ge said China holds a positive and supportive attitude toward the sharing economy. Airbnb will continue to work closely with the government and make contributions to improve industry regulation and corporate governance as well as to ensure the healthy and orderly development of the sharing economy.

Airbnb's local rival, 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 more than 400,000 rental properties, ranging from single rooms to historic farmhouses and country villas.

"Nowadays, Chinese travelers are willing to try something different during a trip. They are not satisfied with hotels. Home-sharing platforms offer diverse living experiences," said Ma Tianjiao, an analyst with the Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys.

Benefits of sharing economy by Fan Feifei, China Daily

Home-sharing services gather pace, grow fast

Gotskaya Tatiana, an exchange student from Russia. [Photo provided to China Daily]

I use Airbnb often as it helps me to find comparatively cheaper accommodation, which, in turn, generates leads to good friends. But people should be careful and read terms and conditions of hosts and be clear about the charges, to avoid disputes and negative experiences. When a friend from Zhejiang province visited me, I found a room in a Beijing hutong (traditional Chinese houses in narrow lanes). That helped a lot because the hutong oozed history everywhere, making us feel as if we were part of an era gone by.

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