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Homestay success built on attention to detail

Updated: Oct 21, 2023 China Daily Print
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CHANGSHA — About four hours before the guests are scheduled to arrive, Wu You finishes the final tasks such as checking the cleanliness of rooms, maintaining the inventory, and ensuring the water temperature is correct.

As a housekeeper at the Zishanmanju Resort in Longweiba village, Zhangjiajie city, Hunan province, Wu starts communicating with guests two days before arrival.

"We anticipate their needs and offer guidance on appropriate clothing and preparations for the expected weather conditions. Meanwhile, we also help guests with parking arrangements, help them plan their itinerary, and recommend routes that fit their needs," she says.

Wu is one of many housekeepers in Longweiba. The village's proximity to the core of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gives it a distinct advantage when it comes to scenic tourism.

Local residents have recently been seeking investment to build clusters of boutique homestays. There are currently 13 mid — to high-end homestays in the area, with another eight in the pipeline.

"Clear water and lush mountains are the prerequisites for harnessing tourism as a source of income," says Li Xiuying, a village official. Li recalls a time when the village grappled with severe pollution, the noxious stench of sewage often hung in the air, and garbage and refuse littered the surroundings.

"There were no flat roads, and the traffic was a major hassle as well," Li says, adding that the village has experienced a dramatic makeover in recent years as a result of multiple improvements and upgrades to its infrastructure.

Longweiba, which started as a modest "hollow village", has blossomed into a vibrant hub for home-based enterprises and job opportunities. Li says that homestays can create more than 100 jobs for villagers and even encourage residents in surrounding areas to get involved in tourism, paving the way for more people to embark on the "tourism road" and earn "tourism money".

In 2016, Li Ping gave up a well-paid job in the city and returned to Longweiba to open a homestay business and work as a housekeeper. Tourists from over 60 countries and regions have visited the homestay thanks to its good international reputation.

Homestay housekeepers also constitute a growing workforce. Last year, the updated version of China's official reference book on occupations recognized homestay housekeepers as a new occupation.

Li Ping says that the job involves delivering genuine and heartfelt service, as housekeepers befriend guests and ensure they feel at home, and distinguishes their role from that of a traditional hotel receptionist or waiter.

Du Yong, the manager of Zishanmanju Resort, underlined the critical role of housekeepers, as they are the initial point of contact with guests. "We regularly organize internal training and send housekeepers for external training to keep enhancing their service mindset, skills, and quality," Du says.

"I feel more pressure now that 'homestay housekeeper' has been officially recognized as a new occupation," says Tang Yanjun, a homestay worker with four years' experience. "We should not only enhance the brand reputation of homestays through sincere service, but also strive to promote the development of rural tourism and contribute to the path of rural vitalization."


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