Rapid urbanization in China has led to challenges in its rural areas, including declining resources and a shrinking labor force. However, with these challenges also come opportunities to reallocate resources, boost the rural economy, and narrow the socioeconomic gap between urban and rural areas.
As tourism in China continues to grow rapidly, people are traveling and exploring more than ever before. The benefits of the tourism industry are now extending beyond popular urban destinations into rural areas, where booming rural tourism has contributed significantly to economic development and rural revitalization. Most recently, the country’s State Council proposed in its Rural Revitalization Strategy Plan (2018-2020) to “promote recreational farming and high quality rural tourism projects, and implement new forms of sharing economy business in rural areas.”
Home sharing in rural areas helps to fully utilize existing land and housing resources, and brings villagers new opportunities for economic empowerment. The ubiquity of the Internet and new technologies has facilitated digital inclusion and easy access to home sharing platforms like Airbnb, enabling villagers to welcome guests from all around the world into their homes. For many locals, home sharing has provided an additional source of income enjoy the benefits of tourism, which helps people and regions that were formerly excluded from the benefits brought by tourism.
While the majority of homes in the home sharing industry remain concentrated in urban areas today, Airbnb is experiencing healthy and rapid growth in both urban and rural areas across China. As of October 2018, Airbnb has seen an annual increase of 257% in rural listings in mainland China. Close to 1,400 rural counties, county-level cities, and remote counties in China today have Airbnb listings, where Airbnb hosts have welcomed millions of guests and earned 260 million RMB in total host income.
Over the past three years, Airbnb has cooperated with local governments and organizations to support rural revitalization, and launched various pilot projects to explore models for sustainable tourism development.
World Tourism Alliance Secretary General Liu Shijun said, “The sharing economy is a fast-growing segment in the tourism industry that has rapidly expanded from cities into rural areas. By converting existing homes into local homestays, new employment opportunities have been created for young adults and women. We believe this will go a long way to support rural revival and poverty alleviation through tourism.”
Most recently, Airbnb collaborated with the government of Guilin to leverage Airbnb’s global people-powered platform and the unique resources of Longsheng Village. Together, they transformed traditional village homes into unique listings where locals can host visitors around the world, and offered workshops to equip locals with the skills to manage and operate their listings — creating an environment that everyone can share in and benefit from.
In Beijing, Airbnb partnered with Beijing International Studies University, Capital University of Economics and Business, and Beijing Union University to launch youth entrepreneurship activities with the support of the tourism departments of Yanqing and Miyun districts. The partnership aims to promote innovation among youths and encourage the development of home sharing in remote suburbs.
Separately in Shanghai, Airbnb joined forces with Chongming Island to build a world class eco-friendly island destination. The company published its first joint eco-tourism proposal exploring the development of a green economy that follows a “young people + mass entrepreneurship and innovation + home sharing” model.
Starting with home sharing, Airbnb hopes to further integrate the travel experience with the promotion of local, traditional handicrafts to create a sustainable ecosystem of rural tourism.
Since it was founded in 2017, the World Tourism Alliance is committed to advocating rural empowerment through tourism development, and makes that one of its missions. By jointly releasing the report “Home-sharing Empowers Rural Revitalization in China” , WTA and Airbnb hope to review the development history of rural home sharing in China, summarize helpful experience in promoting Rural Revitalization through tourism, perfect the all-win mechanism for developing rural tourism through multi-party collaboration, and push the sustainable development of villages and tourism worldwide.
Based on Airbnb data as of October 2018:
- Airbnb currently operates in nearly 1400 rural counties, county-level cities, and remote areas across China. Rural hosts have welcomed around 1 million guests, generating an income of over 260 million RMB.
- Airbnb’s rural listings and hosts in mainland China (including county level cities/county and below, and remote suburbs) make up 22% of Airbnb’s total listings and hosts in mainland China.
- The growth of Airbnb’s business in China’s rural areas is greater than the overall average. The number of rural listings has increased an impressive 257% year over year, and guest arrivals have grown 200%.
- Rural home sharing is most developed in the provinces and cities of Zhejiang, Guangdong, Beijing, Sichuan, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Shandong, Yunnan, Hebei, and Fujian. These regions rank the highest in terms of rural listings, number of guest arrivals, and host income.
- Hunan, Hainan, Heilongjiang, Hebei, and Qinghai are experiencing the fastest growth in rural home sharing , with listings growing at a rate of close to or greater than 400%. Rural host income is growing the fastest in Hebei, Jiangsu, Hunan, Yunnan, and Liaoning, all of which have growth rates exceeding 220%.
- Home sharing continues to enjoy strong and solid growth in traditionally popular rural destinations including Moganshan in Zhejiang Province’s Deqing County, Yangshuo in Guilin, Guangxi, Fenghuang in Hunan, Wuyuan in Jiangxi, and Pingyao in Shanxi.