While already quite popular among travelers in the West, the vacation rental and home-sharing market is still in its early stages in China. The trend is catching on more quickly among China’s middle-class yet luxury hotels still remain the first choice for China's luxury travelers, however this may not last for long. As Chinese tourists are attaching more importance to privacy and comfort, renting an entire villa has become increasingly popular, especially for family vacations or travel to island destinations in Asia Pacific.
Although villa rentals and home-sharing are relatively new to Chinese consumers there are already hundreds of smaller vacation rental companies in the APAC region looking to attract Chinese travelers, and a couple big players are moving in as well. Over the past several months home-sharing giant Airbnb has been ramping up its efforts in the Chinese market dramatically increasing the size of its Chinese workforce.
Actually, Airbnb has been operating in China for a couple of years already, but it hasn’t really taken off. The recent decision to focus on and invest more in the China market may be due to the intensified pressure they are feeling from local-players such as China’s homegrown home-sharing platform Tujia, which has been growing rapidly within China and the Asia region.
Previously, Tujia focused on providing services to young travelers with limited budgets, however, in September this year they expanded their product portfolio launching a high-end product called Tujia Mansion, targeting the affluent Chinese consumer. Their advantage over Airbnb and other international players lies in their understanding of Chinese customers whose home-sharing and vacation rental preferences are notably different than consumers in other markets.
No matter whether it is Airbnb, Tujia, or another company, rental providers seeking to attract Chinese travelers need to take extra measures to understand what elements have the most sway over Chinese travelers' planning decisions. Three key factors include services, style, and price.
Until recently, Chinese travelers have been more comfortable staying in a hotel. One of the main reasons they do not choose a vacation rental is because they do not want to give up the conveniences and services that come with a hotel stay.
Home sharing and villa rentals that are more professional and provide the services that customers are used to in a hotel will have an advantage in the market. Free Wi-Fi is a must and room cleaning services are very important too. Most vacation rentals and home shares do not provide cleaning services during the stay and will require the guest to tidy up a bit before they leave. This is a big turnoff for Chinese travelers who don’t want to spend their vacation time cleaning.
On top of that, Chinese travelers will be more likely to choose a vacation rental if they can pay for it using Unionpay or Alipay. And having Mandarin speaking staff available and Chinese language written materials are also a huge plus.
Although this is more than what many villa rental companies are used to providing, these added services could be the extra push that the Chinese consumer needs to choose a rental property over a hotel.
While many Western travelers are seeking rentals with traditional architecture for a more local experience, Chinese travelers tend to go for recently built villas with a modern style and modern amenities including air conditioning and closing windows. And while ratings and reviews usually play a large role in Chinese consumers’ purchasing decisions, to their surprise, vacation rental companies have found that Chinese travelers will even choose a newer villa with fewer reviews over an older one with many positive reviews.
Chinese travelers, even affluent ones, pay a lot of attention to rates. On average the length of a long-haul trip is seven days and oftentimes they will rent the villa or home share for several days at a time. Offering a special rate for a longer stay or during a specific time of year might convince them that a vacation rental is not only convenient but also cost-effective.