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Insights & Inspirations | Leveraging New Media to Provide Multi-Dimensional Rural Tourism and Homestay Services


YU Dunde

CEO of Tuniu.com

Full text:

Good morning, everyone!

Over the past two or three years, we have seen significant changes in market demand. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists who used to be attracted by resort complexes in big cities have become more interested in the countryside, idyllic places and nature. This is a primary reason for the rapid development of rural homestays in recent years. Based on travel booking data from Tuniu.com, the growth is really fast.

Into the new era, travel agencies including Tuniu are expected to take more social responsibilities, for example, contributing to rural vitalization by supporting the development of rural tourism.

A variety of elements come collectively to support the development of rural tourism. In this process, the primary, secondary and tertiary industries can be integrated and developed together. One of the common threads that traversed periods before, during and even after the pandemic is that consumer demand for tourism products is constantly changing, requiring the tourism industry to upgrade the supply accordingly.

We have taken note of a trend that emerged during the pandemic: the number of days per trip declined, yet consumers have higher expectations for the trips. This puts higher requirements on product supply and service upgrading in order to meet such expectations.

Undoubtedly, rural tourism faces various challenges, especially when it comes to the operation of homestays, but these challenges can be addressed and Tuniu has accumulated some experience in this regard.

In addition to our marketing experience as a platform, Tuniu also engages in offline homestay operations. We leverage our rich experience in frontline management and operations to help develop higher-quality products. Moreover, we can bring products to both online and offline channels to help homestays pursue integrated development and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Tuniu is now running three homestays, all of which were put into operation during the pandemic. The first, located at the foot of Mount Qingcheng in Dujiangyan of Chengdu, opened in 2020. The second, Xijingyu, is located in Xijingyu Village, Panshan Scenic Area, Jizhou District, Tianjin, which is adjacent to Beijing. The two homestays are both among the best in their respective region in terms of customer satisfaction. In fact, they are at the top, although some peers are also doing well.

The two homestays both have outstanding occupancy rates, that is, the ratio of the number of occupied rooms to the number of available rooms. Xijingyu opened in the first half of 2021. Despite the pandemic, it had a very high occupancy rate when in normal operation, ranking first among family-friendly homestays in Tianjin. Our project at the foot of Mount Qingcheng ranks first among upscale hotels in Dujiangyan and has long had high rankings on various lists.

In addition, we opened a new homestay in Nanjing this year, in conjunction with the nearby Bracket Set Museum and elements of camping. The diverse business models improve the experience and the quality of services for customers.

Specifically, we focus on three areas to improve service quality. First, we use quality linens and mattresses. Second, we pay close attention to details in delivering services, providing excellent children’s playgrounds, children’s rooms, coffee makers and hairdryers. Third, our meals are benchmarked against formal dinners. Pepper chicken provided at our homestay in Mount Qingcheng has gained high popularity.

We provide integrated services for customers by combining homestay services with other local business models and elements, such as camping, red tourism, study tours and family tours. Our homestays not only offer boarding and catering services, but are also comprehensive rural tourism complexes.

With this model, we have brought local culture into our products to achieve the coordinated development of agriculture, culture and tourism, thus building the influence of our rural tourism brand and adding to the value of the entire tourism industry.

The benefits of this model are reflected in three aspects. First, local villagers’ committees and village collectives are satisfied. The rural homestay projects attract more young people to return to their hometown to work or start their own businesses, boosting local tourism consumption and increasing the prices and occupancy rates of other homestays nearby.

Second, villagers are satisfied. Villagers can get a rent for their property and the rental income increases along with the improvement of homestay operations.

Third, tourists are satisfied. As mentioned earlier, a major new trend is that tourists spend less time on a single trip, but have higher expectations of the quality and experience of tourism products. The goal of our homestay projects is exactly to give tourists a better rural tourism experience.

In addition, we have made progress in product innovation by leveraging our strength in channels. The pandemic fueled demand for online sales supported by the internet, and live streaming boomed. Tuniu has also broken new ground in live streaming.

We mainly offer live streaming services on Tiktok and WeChat Channels. Great results have been achieved by combining live streaming and rural products. For example, we hold live streaming sessions in Dujiangyan and Mount Qingcheng, so that online viewers can appreciate local beauty, culture and history without physically being there. This has received positive feedback. A single live streaming session can be viewed more than 100,000 times, which shows that this form of service has been well received.

In addition to introducing destinations, our live streaming platform also sells tourism products. When demand for tourism products was suppressed during the pandemic, we extended our service scope to cover catering. Catering and tourism are both major categories of local lifestyle services. Currently, Tuniu ranks second, following East Buy, on Tiktok. It also ranks high in the hotel and tourism category. Three of the top-rated live streaming rooms in January are owned by Tuniu.

As outbound tourism restarted, we have begun to sell outbound tourism products through live streaming and the performance has been satisfactory recently. For example, sales of a live streaming session dedicated to tourism products themed on the Maldives reached RMB17 million, a record high since outbound tourism resumed.

Tuniu is a multi-channel network as well. We hope to leverage new media to do a good job in providing and promoting high-quality products and achieve greater success in rural homestay operation, thus contributing to rural vitalization and the development of rural tourism. Thank you!