Across China: Villagers thrive as homestay housekeepers

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CHANGSHA, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- About four hours before the guests are scheduled to arrive, Wu You finishes the final reception tasks -- checking the cleanliness of rooms, maintaining inventory, and ensuring the correct water temperature, among other duties.

As a housekeeper at the Zishanmanju Resort in Longweiba Village, Zhangjiajie City, in central China's Hunan Province, Wu maintains active communication with guests from two days before their arrival.

"We anticipate their needs and offer guidance on appropriate attire and preparations for the prevailing weather conditions. Meanwhile, we also help guests with parking arrangements, help them plan their itinerary, and recommend routes according to their needs," Wu said.

Wu is just one of the many housekeepers in Longweiba Village. Longweiba Village's proximity to the core of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, grants it a distinct locational advantage and endows it with valuable scenic resources.

Locals have recently been courting investment and turning to the business of creating 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," said Li Xiuying, an official of the village. Li still recalls a time when the village grappled with severe pollution, where the noxious stench of sewage routinely hung in the air, and garbage and debris littered the surroundings.

"A flat road was unavailable, and the traffic was a major hassle as well," Li said, adding that the village has experienced a dramatic makeover in recent years as a result of multiple habitat improvement and infrastructure-upgrade projects.

Longweiba, which started as a modest "hollow village," has blossomed into a vibrant hub for home-based enterprises and job opportunities. Li said that homestays can create more than a hundred jobs for locals and even encourage people from the surrounding area to join the tourism industry, 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 Village, where he opened a homestay business and worked as a housekeeper. Tourists from over 60 different countries and regions have visited the homestay, making it a homestay enjoying international fame.

Homestay housekeepers also constitute a growing workforce. In 2022, the updated version of China's official reference book on occupations recognized homestay housekeepers as a new occupation.

Li said that being a homestay housekeeper involves genuine and heartfelt service, as housekeepers befriend guests and ensure they feel at home, distinguishing 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 stand at the initial point of contact with guests. "We regularly organize internal training and send housekeepers for external training to continually enhance their service mindset, skills, and quality," Du said.

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

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