Airbnb's Chinese counterpart takes home-sharing game to next level

Airbnb's Chinese counterpart takes home-sharing game to next level
PHOTO: Reuters

Airbnb Inc may be the sharing-economy leader, but a Chinese lodge booking site is taking the game to the next level.

Shenzhen-based Zhubaijia.com is not only offering Chinese outbound travellers the chance to book a stay in private apartments but also providing a string of value-added services including airport pickups, car rentals and tickets to local attractions.

The company made its debut on Friday on China's New Third Board, the national share transfer system for small and medium-sized enterprises, becoming the first listed sharing-economy company in the country.

"After going public, we want to focus on providing more value-added services to Chinese outbound travellers to make sure they can have a hotel-like experience despite of staying in private apartments," said Jimmy Ruan, co-founder of Zhubaijia, which can be translated into "live in hundreds of homes".

He said unlike overseas backpackers who look forward to do-it-yourself travelling experience, Chinese outbound travellers don't prefer uncertainty.

The difference is what makes Zhubaijia stands out in the increasingly crowded sharing-economy market in China.

Compared with the US-based Airbnb, which operates on a peer-to-peer model, Zhubaijia puts a lot of effort to make sure its apartments are of high standard.

"We have 15 key overseas destinations, including Seoul, Tokyo and Rome, each equipped with 100 part-time overseas Chinese to vet the quality of apartments and offer tailor-made services locally," he said.

The company, which was founded in 2012, started to see its business take off in 2014 after it repositioned itself as a site dedicated to serve the lodging needs of Chinese outbound travellers.

It has more than 200,000 listings in some 650 cities.

In comparison, with more than 1.5 million listings in 34,000 cities, Airbnb is the world's largest provider of accommodation.

In 2015, Zhubaijia's revenue grew 68 times to 45.69 million yuan ($7.02 million) from the previous year, with 79 per cent of it coming from the lodging business and 21 per cent from value-added services.

Ruan said there is no urgent need for the company to raise capital from the stock market.

"We are more interested in riding the reputation we gain from going public and bring our business to the next level," he said, adding the company will focus on providing more value-added services and enriching its apartment portfolio.

On the company's website, private apartments are not the only option being offered. There are also fancy options like castles, beach houses and tree houses.

Chinese superstar Yang Ying, widely known by her stage name Angelababy, invested in Zhubajia after booking a stay in Paris last year when she shot her wedding photos.

Ruan said that the average price of an order at Zhubaijia is about 16,000 yuan, which allows four to six people to stay at a gorgeous house in Europe for four nights and enjoy services like airport pickups.

"An increasingly number of affluent Chinese families are able to afford the price to have a decent vacation overseas," he said, adding there is plenty of untapped potential in the market.

Statistics from the China National Tourism Administration showed that Chinese travellers made 120 million outbound trips in 2015. About 80 million of the trips were made by self-guided individual travellers.

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