Airbnb may have beefed up its strategy to become a major homeshare business in China, but it’s facing some fast-growing local competition now that the China-based online travel agency Tongcheng-Elong has launched a new WeChat mini-program called Lazy Cat Homestay (懒猫民宿) that, for now, offers domestic accommodations.
According to a report from the State Information Center (SIC) published last May, the market value of shared accommodations in China increased by over 70 percent year-on-year to RMB 14.5 billion in 2017. The report claims that China had about 3 million homes available as vacation rentals that year and received 78 million bookings. Meanwhile, they’re estimating that the rental market value will increase to $7.38 billion (RMB 50 billion) by the year 2020.
Because of those numbers, companies like Tongcheng-Elong have decided to enter the booming homeshare market in China. And lo and behold, within just a few days of Tongcheng-Elong’s mini-program launch, Lazy Cat Homestay had attracted over half a million domestic listings from Chinese travelers. The company plans to focus on the domestic market before it expands overseas when it will consider moving into top Chinese tourists destinations in countries like Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. The platform also plans to eventually add more boutique bed & breakfast listings to its menu of offerings.
According to pre-Chinese New Year travel data from Tongcheng-Elong, an estimated 15.7 percent of Chinese travelers chose “non-traditional” accommodations over this year’s Lunar New Year holiday. But make no mistake: Lazy Cat Homestay will have a steep mountain to climb in order to officially compete with Airbnb, which already has a WeChat mini-program and a loyal following in China. For now, younger travelers are more likely to continue using Airbnb as they can book accommodations either domestically or overseas.