China surprises with Luxury B&Bs
by David Weston
Chairman of the
Bed & Breakfast Association
As the B&B Association is purely UK-focused, it is always good when the opportunity arises to see B&Bs in other countries. We had an amazing chance to do that last month, when invited to speak at the first-ever Shanghai International B&B Conference.
Our hosts took us to see B&Bs in the Pudong area, and in the Morganshan Mountains, and it was an eye-opening experience. The B&Bs were more expensive than hotels: some £200 per night. And far from being rustic or quaint, inside they were airy, modern, architect-designed and full of the latest technology – but preserving details like original wood or stone.
The surprises started with our first visit – arriving at an office block in an industrial estate, we went to a brand new reception centre alongside, then were handed life jackets. As we stepped through the reception lounge and out of the other side, the reason became clear: via a jetty, we boarded a speedboat for a fast trip up rivers and canals to the waterside B&B in a remote farming village.
More surprises followed – the stylish modern open-plan interior, and the fact that guests were offered different activities. Yes, within minutes of arrival in a Chinese rural B&B, we were making pizza, of all things! That was followed later by throwing pots on a wheel.
The chef overseeing the pizza making had also prepared some pastries for tea, which were so elegant and delicate they could have come from a Paris patisserie. Another surprise.
The Chinese government has recognized that developing B&Bs in rural areas will contribute to creating sustainable livelihoods there – and they have clearly decided to aim at the top end of the market as far as guests are concerned (I am sure this is the first time Luxury B&B Magazine has covered China!).
And it is not just the “hardware” that impressed, it was the “software” – the friendly and helpful welcome: in short, the hospitality.
The Chinese were keen to hear from us about British B&Bs, as the UK is recognized as the home of the B&B (and of the number 1 B&B in the world and five of the top 10, according to TripAdvisor). We were of course happy to fly the flag in China.
They can clearly do things to very high standards, and are determined to develop an upmarket B&B sector. It’s another example of how ferocious the competition is worldwide for the over a billion international tourists. We can never rest on our laurels!
The Bed & Breakfast Association is the UK trade association for B&B and guest house owners, and exists to inform, support & represent owners. Membership costs £60 a year.