Tourists check out an ancient town in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, on June 7. (Photo/Xinhua)
The country's short-term vacation rental sector is seeing steady recovery from the impact of novel coronavirus pandemic, as nearby travels, rural or countryside homestays as well as clean and high-quality accommodations gain popularity among Chinese tourists.
Statistics from the China branch of US-based Airbnb showed that 72 out of the top 100 cities with the highest occupancy rates across the nation saw more than 100 percent growth in terms of nights booked month-on-month between May 10 and May 19.
Second-tier cities like Chongqing, Changsha in Hunan province, Chengdu in Sichuan province, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and resort destinations such as Sanya in Hainan province, Huzhou in Zhejiang province and Qingdao in Shandong province have shown a robust recovery or even outperformed between June 4 and 6 compared with same period last year.
In addition, data showed over 50 percent of nights booked from May 17 to 23 are trips within 200 miles (322 kilometers), higher than the same period last year.
"People's pent-up travel demands are being released rationally. In the short term, short-haul trips will become the norm, while rural tours become an increasingly popular choice. The cleanliness and hygiene of accommodations will also be a top priority for Chinese tourists," said Peng Tao, president of Airbnb China.
A survey conducted by consultancy Kantar showed that 81 percent of interviewees prefer "traveling closer to home". In the next 12 months, 73 percent of those surveyed prefer "traveling by car", higher than the proportion of going "by airplane" at 66 percent and "by train" at 57 percent.
It also showed that "beach and shore", "suburban town" and "countryside" are the top choices of a first trip after travel restrictions are eased. Travelers are expecting to "have immersive experiences that show them something new", not just "visiting popular tourist sites or destinations".
Global data intelligence company Morning Consult said people tend to consider more about cleanliness (46 percent) and quality of accommodations (35 percent), rather than special rates or discounts (20 percent) since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Airbnb has established partnerships with local authorities and industry associations in Zhejiang province and Guilin, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, to bolster the recovery of the tourism industry and drive rural revitalization.
To address the concerns of travelers, the company has launched a "rest assured stays" program to promote listings with high-level cleanliness and sanitization standards, and promoting guidelines of home cleaning and sanitization to the host community.
Data from the State Information Center, a government think tank, showed that the revenue of the homestay segment was 22.5 billion yuan ($3.2 billion) last year, up 36 percent year-on-year.
It forecast that this year, the number of tenants is likely to exceed 100 million and the number of shared homes will top 6 million.
China's tourism market saw a strong recovery during the five-day Labor Day holiday. With regular epidemic control measures in place, the tourism market basically recovered to 50 percent of the level seen in the same period last year, said Wang Xiaofeng, an official with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
"The outbreak has had a heavy impact on the whole tourism industry, but we believe that its effect will likely be temporary. The tourism and homestay markets would see a rebound and scale a new consumption peak when the epidemic ends," said Li Zhenni, executive vice-president and chief business officer of Tujia.
Li has a lot of confidence in the recovery of the industry. "The epidemic has only suppressed people's travel demand in the short term but their yearning for high-quality life and beautiful natural scenery has never stopped."
Li agreed that domestic tours and short-haul trips have been favored by consumers, who attach more importance to the quality and cleanliness of the shared homes they rent.
Han Mengying, an analyst from market consultancy Analysys, said that compared with hotels, the recovery of the vacation rental market is slower due to its nonstandardized management methods and community-based services.