Short-stay rentals and homesharing specialists in China are expanding their listings in China.
Tujia crossed 1.3 million listings in February and is on track to touch the two million mark by the end of this year. Another major homesharing player in China, Xiaozhu, is targeting one million properties by the middle of next year, from more than 500,000 listings in more than 500 cities currently, said its co-founder and chief operating officer, Tarry Wang Liantao.
There is plenty of room to grow. Tujia chief financial officer Warren Wang said its current listings aren’t even 10 percent of the entire size of the market. Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb’s co-founder, chief strategy officer and chairman of Airbnb China, also noted an “incredible diversity and experimentation” in the accommodation space going on in China. He spoke to ChinaTravelNews.com during his visit to Shanghai for the TravelDaily Conference in September last year.
Airbnb’s listings in China grew 106 percent last year, as reported by Skift. China is now Airbnb’s top destination market in Asia-Pacific.
The market is also changing quickly. It is vital for instance, to have listings beyond top cities for domestic travelers and foreign tourists, who are increasingly going to inner-land cities like Chengdu, Chongqing, and Wuhan, said homesharing players.
This means that the pace of homestay expansion in China is only expected to continue in the next couple of years. “Be it working with online brokers or property management specialists [who have aggregated properties and offer this inventory], or having API connectivity to direct contracting, all options are being explored by the major homestay companies,” observed a source.
Xiaozhu’s Wang noted that the category is capitalizing on the current phase, which has shown signs of maturity as recruiting hosts and adding inventory becomes more streamlined and cost-efficient.
“As we grow, the market has also grown into a matured network. Properties are being uploaded online by owners themselves, too. So the network is capable of churning out its own growth today,” he said.
This way of listing is becoming increasingly common in cities, where inventory largely consists of apartments. But going into inner lands, Xiaozhu is also listing a lot of houses.
“We have a team [at the local level] who has a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the inner places. We also offer offline services in tier 3, tier 4 cities and in the countryside,” said Xiaozhu’s Wang.
Half of its listings currently are in tier 1 and tier 2 cities.
Tujia also has in-house teams and third-party specialists for on-site inspections to take photographs, assess safety parameters and so on. Local teams work with homeowners on aspects like managing the customer and how to operate houses on the platform.
Homesharing players are also working with companies that lease houses from owners and manage these properties on their behalf. “They have a sizable number of properties and are our suppliers,” said a source. “We are also looking at online brokers, but if they only have the information and don’t control the house on the behalf of the owner, then things get complicated. We prefer not to tie-up with them,” said a source.
Top companies manually review every listing and work with the host to showcase their home in the best possible way. Plus there is inspection against a set of criteria to verify quality.
Airbnb invested in CityHome, a company that offers short-term rentals in homes and apartments across China. Tao Peng, who was appointed as president of Airbnb China last year, had co-founded CityHome.
“Overall, an increment in the number of players is good for the ecosystem,” said Blecharczyk. “You can see a wide range of properties on the Airbnb platform in China, too. What matters to us is the nature of the experience offered — for instance, our Experiences that are designed and led by inspiring locals, too, aren’t like offerings from big companies where travelers hop on and off during their bus tours. We want people to feel like an insider, rather than outsider.”
But with expansion comes commoditization, with one property being available on many platforms.
To differentiate, one area is by improving the overall presentation of content via a superlative product interface. The traditional ways of selling travel aren’t going to work anymore.
China does not lack technology prowess to shape new consumption patterns — look for instance at what video app Douyin’s 15-second videos has done for marketeers.
Homesharing players should ramp up on inspiring travelers, not just selling homes.
This story originally appeared on China Travel News, a Skift content partner.