More and more Chinese are traveling abroad with Airbnb, many for the first time, and not in travel bus groups.
“In 2015, more than 120 million person-time Chinese people traveled abroad” says Premier Li Keqiang of China.
To create more enjoyable experience for both hosts and guests, there are cultural differences and mutual empathy to consider. This guide aims to help Airbnb hosts to better prepare for your next Chinese traveler.
Note: the guide is more qualitative than quantitive, based on my frequent interactions with Chinese travelers and Airbnb superhosts. Majority of my hosts are in the US, but have stayed in Asia (Singapore, HK , China), Latin America (Cuba,Mexico, Colombia ) , Europe (Switzerland) etc. Some of my hosts have guests from 140+ countries.
Why should you read my guide?
- early Airbnb adopter from mainland China (2012): both as a host (in NYC) and a guest (80+ listings from the most remote water village in China to various neighborhoods of Los Angeles).
- understand the product inside-out: lived on Airbnb exclusively for a whole year and wrote 50+ articles / videos for Chinese audience to share learnings and stories about unique listings, hospitality, and how-to tips.
- only stay with Superhosts or alike: able to pick up best practices and anecdotes from the most hospitable hosts (for example, one host asked me “Do you have WeChat? Because we’d like to stay in touch with our guests from China.” )
- understand Chinese travelers’ needs: with 300k social media following in travel and food space in China, I am immersed with user questions and can identify needs (for example, does “shared room” mean living with the host in the same room?)
- leading a new lifestyle in China of living with locals : my airbnb travels influenced thousands of Chinese travelers to take a first trip with Airbnb abroad after my “How-to use Airbnb guide” (in Mandarin Chinese) went viral in summer 2015.
Who are Chinese travelers?
- 3 years ago, Airbnb users in China are the cultured trend-setters, designers and product managers of top tech companies (Tencent/Alibaba alike) or college students studying abroad in the US and Europe.
- but since summer 2015, Airbnb took up in China and became more mainstream, for travels both outbound and within China. Also, many local entrepreneurs study why Airbnb successful
What do you need to know about Chinese travelers?
(based on my daily interaction and observation)
- China recently transformed from surviving to thriving and independent travel took off in the last 5 years, therefore
- Less independent & higher maintenance than European and US travelers
- less familiar with bnb & couchsurfing, may expect hotel services
- polite and tidy (especially when travel with parents)
- heavy smart-phone user, only use messaging apps, do not check emails
- dependent on wifi when travel
- China is still a low trust society, example of my experience in a trailer
- concerned about safety of airbnb and neighborhoods, for example, many friends have the misconception that South America and Mexico are not safe
What do hosts need to know?
- Be empathetic with less experienced intl travelers:
（1）Arrival time: more flexible check-in, international flights can take 30min to 3 hours to go through immigration line. (2) Since Google is blocked in China, your Chinese guests may ask you directions that can be found on Google Map
(2) Set up expectation: Make sure to communicate if your house is in “rougher” conditions or for the adventurous type : for example, clarify if you do not have heater / AC or may have mosquitos visit.
→ less experienced travelers generally need more hand-holding, and thus more patience
- Be aware of how other culture operates:
(1) do not expect emailing a PDF instruction and every line will be read. Email is not frequently used in China, rather instant-messaging app WeChat is most common.
(2)With language barrier, it’s easier to meet your guests and walk them through the house rules if you can — will save the hassle later.
→ I recommend print out your house rule to put in the bedroom.
- Reduce language barriers:
(1) Self check-in: Smart self service locks and clear instructions can help reduce language barrier. Having multiple keys and explaining how to use them can be cumbersome.
(2) bilingual house manual, reviews and listing info : it’s worth to ask your Chinese speaking friend to help create a Chinese manual (if your Airbnb is located close to big shopping outlets) ; also ask your Chinese guest to write review in Chinese help booking conversions
Be aware of culture differences:
- (1) Bed-sheet: in Asia and Europe, “bed-sheet” is not common. Worth to explain to guests.
(2) Continental breakfast — if you provide breakfast, explain that continental does NOT include eggs
(3) Removing shoes & providing disposable slippers: In Asia, people remove shoes at home — also a sign of cleaness. I only have one suitcase at a time, but one essential I must bring is a pair of slippers that dries fast.
(4) Replace idioms /slangs with explicit words: Once I was confused by the tagline “the ocean is your oyster ”. I misunderstood it as an oyster-only dinner, but turned out to be seafood and Japanese.
(5) Use of Kitchen: Chinese travelers are not used to Western food and prefer to cook. Note if your house is vegetarian and make an effort to explain as Chinese cooking is meat-heavy.
(6) Is tap water safe to drink? In China, it’s not safe to drink tap water. It’s worth to explain to guests where is their source of drinking water, even better, prepare them a jar of drinking water, esp. after just getting off the plane.
Bonus: prepare water jar if your airbnb is a garage-convert without kitchen sink. It feels uncomfortable to drink from bathroom tap.
(7) explain how remote control and washer / dryer works. Washer / dryer is not common in China. If your instructions for appliances are in Spanish, I recommend label with English — I ran into this in Colombia when I didn’t understand how to operate the washer.
(8) Trash: if you separate trash into recycle / trash / compost (common in West Coast), make sure to explain by color
- Be alert when a family books your adventurous cabin / cottage / tiny house
The 20-something daughter may be adventurous but the parents want more hotel service. Over-communicate & set up guest’s expectation — make sure the parents are comfortable living in a treehouse or in nature, for example .
In Summary, 3 take-aways:
- Be more patient and empathetic with less experienced travelers
- Always be explicit instead of using slangs
- Try to use technology to overcome language barrier
On a practical level, get a smart digital lock, and prepare slippers will enhance your hosting experience.
I will add more as it comes. Please feel free to post your questions in response. Instagram: @ chenyuz