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Rural tourism sees robust growth
By:China Daily
update:December 27,2023

Tourists and villagers raise a toast on Tuesday during a fish-themed banquet in Dongheng village in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. XIE SHANGGUO/FOR CHINA DAILY
Dec.27, 2023 -- After experiencing a three-year hit due to COVID-19, China's homestay industry has shown strong recovery in 2023, thanks to the growth of tourism in rural areas.
According to a recent report by the travel portal Trip.com Group, bookings of rural tourism products in the first three quarters of this year were roughly 2.6 times the number in the same period of 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak.
In addition, the number of homestays available on the travel platform grew 44 percent, the highest in five years, reaching about 330,000 in 2023, a sign of the market's good prospects and the confidence in the future development of rural tourism.
Li Minfei, a 35-year-old from Beijing, now prefers homestays to fancy hotels, saying they offer a "memorable" experience and he feels more at home there.
"Homestays are always my first choice when I plan to visit rural destinations. It's like being a guest in someone's home, where you can see different interior designs resulting from the cultural background and customs of the homestay's operators," he said.
Li used to favor five-star hotels but grew weary of the monotonous experiences in what he called the "standard rooms".
"There is no doubt that five-star hotels have good services, better than homestays. But the lack of human interaction makes the living experience not that impressive to me. Also, the hotels are usually located in downtown areas, so it takes time to travel to rural destinations, which is not that convenient," Li added.
"I still remember my four-day-and-three-night stay at a homestay in Dali, Yunnan province, in September. The breakfast was cooked by the homestay's staff members — some middle-aged aunts from the local village. They are not as professional as hotel staff, but they cooked very delicious meals, and we can talk like friends sitting at the table. They made my travel memorable," he added.
A report on rural tourism development by Yunnan's Culture and Tourism Department said that in the first 10 months of this year, villages in the province received about 454 million visits, a year-on-year increase of around 38 percent, which generated about 227.9 billion yuan ($32 billion) in revenue, a nearly 27 percent increase. The number of visits and amount of revenue both outperformed the figures for 2019.
Huangshan, in East China's Anhui province, has also seen good results from rural tourism and homestays. The city is famous for its mountainous views and traditional culture and architecture.
Huangshan has more than 3,100 homestays, which registered more than 3.3 million visits in 2022 and brought in tourism-related revenue of 6.5 billion yuan, according to He Yi, the city's mayor.
"As the homestay industry has seen continuous prosperity in recent years, villages have embraced more talent, financial investment and information from outside. More young people and entrepreneurs have established businesses and enjoy life in the countryside," he told Xinhua News Agency in a recent interview.
Bookings at rural homestays that offer handicrafts or agricultural experiences favored by travelers, such as pottery workshops and picking fruits and vegetables, have seen substantial growth, according to homestay platform Tujia.
Long Fei, a postdoctoral researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' National Academy of Economic Strategy, said that after extensive development over the past decade, the country's homestays, with their unique advantages, have strengthened and diversified their competition with traditional hotels.
She said that homestay operators have been exploring new ways of doing business and making profits, and have begun to offer more personalized and special experiences to travelers.
Shi Meili, a 31-year-old from Xijingyu village in Tianjin, said that she has seen her annual income increase by more than 10,000 yuan since starting to work in May 2021 at a homestay operated in the village by travel portal Tuniu.
"I was a factory worker. It's very nice to have the current job (at the homestay), which is well-paid and much closer to my home," she said. "I'm happy to see that more homestays have opened in the village, which offers villagers more job opportunities and improves our quality of life."
Shi is responsible at the homestay for such tasks as informing customers of weather conditions as well as transportation and food arrangements, and helping arrange sightseeing or cultural activities for customers.
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