Dear business traveller, China’s Airbnb has a room for you
Xiaozhu, the Chinese startup that’s often called China’s Airbnb, will carve out a new segment of homes that are aimed specifically at attracting and meeting the needs of business travellers.
Home-sharing start-up Xiaozhu, often dubbed “China’s Airbnb” due to its similar business model, is looking at business travellers to boost the company’s growth in China’s short-term home-rental market.
On Wednesday, Xiaozhu chief executive Kelvin Chen Chi said that the company would be carving out a new segment of homes that are specifically targeted at fulfilling the needs of employees on business trips.
“Over 15 per cent of our bookings are for business travel purposes,” Chen said during an interview in Shenzhen.
“Sometimes employees need to stay in a city for two to three months to work on a project, and it’s not [cost-effective] to stay at a hotel ... we want to fill this gap in the market that hotels cannot meet,” he said.
Homes that wish to be eligible as an enterprise offering need to be within 10 minutes by foot to public transport, offer 24-hour check-in, provide official invoices, guarantee a refund in case of a hygiene-related complaint as well as come equipped with office facilities such as a projector and a broadband internet connection, enabling employees to work from their temporary home.
Xiaozhu (小豬) has just started rolling out its homes targeted at business travellers in about 20 cities including Shenzhen, Chen said, although the company expects to expand to more than 50 cities in China offering about 80,000 apartments for such travellers by the end of the year – a number similar to the total number of listings that Airbnb currently has in China.
The company also hopes to sign deals with 5,000 companies this year, and is aiming to serve 100,000 business travellers. Xiaozhu is already in talks with an unnamed Chinese telecommunications company for a deal that would see the company’s employees stay at Xiaozhu’s short-term home rentals while travelling for business, according to Chen.
Unlike Airbnb, which serves mostly as a platform that connects travellers with hosts, Xiaozhu differentiates itself by also providing services to hosts, such as helping them with renovation work, and sourcing office facilities for hosts to help them meet the requirements to list on Xiaozhu. The company even offers a cleaning service to help tidy up the home after guests have checked out, Chen said.
However, home-sharing start-ups are still operating in a grey area in China, as there are no official regulations around the industry. This means that Xiaozhu, together with other similar companies such as Tujia and Zhubaijia, are operating with the risks of a potential clampdown by authorities hovering over their heads.
But Chen is not deterred by such concerns, stating that Xiaozhu is communicating with authorities and taking extreme care in going through the identity verification process for both guests and hosts to ensure compliance with current hotel industry regulations.
“In this industry, it is important to foresee what might be required [in the future], and prepare the necessary regulations and company policy,” he said. “We are actively communicating with authorities and taking note of issues such as safety and identity verification.”
Last November, Xiaozhu raised US$65 million in additional Series C funding as well as a Series D round of financing.