By CGTN’s Meng Qingsheng
A growing number of travelers in China are choosing to stay with local families rather than in hotels. The home-sharing industry has now grown to become a big part of China’s service sector. It allows visitors to immerse themselves more in the local culture.
Pingle ancient town in Qionglai City, Sichuan Province. /Photo via local scenic administration
Pingle, an ancient town with over 2,000 years of history, is located in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. It is a destination bustling with holidaymakers who go there for its tranquility and rich culture. Nearly 300 out of the 5,000 households here operate family hotels. The business can generate an average annual income of about 100,000 yuan, or 15,000 US dollars, for each household.
Zhu Lunsong and his wife clean a family hotel room. /CGTN Photo
Back in 2006, Zhu Lunsong and his wife took the plunge and opened the town’s first home-sharing business. The couple borrowed money and transformed their hundred-year-old house, built by their grandparents, into a short-term rental. After paying off all the debt, they can now earn an annual income of 200,000 yuan, or 30,000 US dollars.
Interior view of Zhu Lunsong’s traditional house. /CGTN Photo
Operators seeking ways to stand out amid fierce competition
This year, 30 more families will join the home-sharing business. The local government plans to inject more money into the industry. Despite challenges, Zhu Lunsong says he is optimistic about the future of his family business. He works intensively to foster his bamboo-root carving skills, something he believes will make his business stand out.
Zhu Lunsong and his bamboo-root carving. /CGTN
As the carvings are authentic artifacts produced here, many people in cities have rarely seen them before. Therefore, he is planning to decorate each room with root carvings, so that his guests will feel the cultural touch.
Detailed legal framework needed to regulate expansion
The local tourism authority is taking the lead in regulating the growth of the industry. Ma Yan, director of the local scenic area administration, says there are training and incentives to improve operators’ service and safety awareness. But in her point of view, it still lacks an adequate legal framework, therefore more detailed laws and regulations should be in place.
Ma Yan, director of the local scenic area administration. /CGTN Photo
Currently, China has no rules specifically designed for this market. Operators are concerned about unregulated competition. They want a legal framework to ensure that expansion is sustainable.
According to the National Information Center, annual growth in China's sharing economy will be about 40 percent over the next five years, and the sector will account for 10 percent of GDP by 2020. That, once again, calls for a strong and adequate legal framework to regulate the rapidly growing industry.