Homestay businesses in China are stepping in to help homeowners who have been left stuck after Airbnb announced that it will leave China’s domestic business on 30th July. Airbnb’s decision owes in part to the country’s repeated local lockdowns and the country’s firm stance on a “zero-COVID” policy.
Meituan Homestay, a subsidiary of China’s largest local living service platform Meituan, has also entered the race. The platform’s “New Host Support Scheme” offers more comprehensive services, such as operating training and specialised support, to help newcomers adjust to the new online environment. Fliggy, one of China’s most prominent travel agencies, and its invested affiliate Xiaozhu, which has been growing its influence into rural tourism in recent years, have also made similar solutions available to the impacted hosts.
These domestic players have acted so quickly because they believe that demand for folk house rentals will return. They predict that nearby travels will become the go-to option for Chinese customers who don’t want to miss out on the joys of travel due to China’s COVID restrictions.
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Despite the apparent decline in the homestay market during the peak of the pandemic in China in 2020 and into 2021, the industry is expected to rebound. China’s short-distance traveller numbers are set to surpass 4 billion in the next five years, generating an estimated revenue of RMB 1.2 trillion RMB (USD 179.23 billion) by 2025.