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Home-sharing services gather pace, grow fast
Last Updated: 2017-09-04 11:36 | China Daily
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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.

"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

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.

Compared to hotels, the room I booked through a home-sharing website was not only cheaper but afforded me a totally different experience. The host shared useful city travel tips. When I travel to Shanghai, I often book a room in the city's former French Concession. I pay attention to the decoration of a house. The Shanghai house I stayed in once had distinctive features and a long history. On another occasion, I booked a room in the US, but the rental website did not state the room was near a graveyard. When I reached there, the unexpected location took me by surprise.I often use Airbnb when traveling abroad. I used it the first time for a trip to Miami with my boyfriend. Through Airbnb, we found an independent suite with an open-air balcony, which was just perfect to have drinks. The room was clean and lights romantic. Through Airbnb, you can find homestays, if you do not prefer to stay in hotels. When we went to Keywest, we found a local American family through Airbnb and had hearty meals with them.When I traveled to Turkey, I used Airbnb to book accommodation. I stayed in an en-suite single room in a villa and paid no more than 300 yuan ($45) per night. I was very satisfied with the accommodation, and will use Airbnb next time. My comfort level was high as I could keep close contact with local residents. The host showed us around in the evenings and introduced us to tasty local food. The guests in other rooms were from different countries such as Japan and Russia. We all befriended each other and spent a lot of happy time together.
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