From city to seaside, or mountain to prairie, a growing number of Chinese tourists from a diverse range of ages and backgrounds are enjoying a wide variety of homestays and bed & breakfasts that are springing up all over the country.
Courtyard hotel offers cultural haven
"Let us provide an exquisite experience of ancient China with a contemporary flair," says Li Jin, 50, a local Beijing entrepreneur who manages a luxury boutique hotel in the capital's downtown.
Located within Beijing's Second Ring Road in Weijia Hutong, Dongcheng district, the Cours et Pavillons Hotel is a little hard to find thanks to its low-key entrance.
But after being greeted by one of the butlers, guests will be able to take in the hotel's unique ambience, its traditional Chinese architectural style and its exquisite attention to detail.
Entering the courtyard, visitors can't help but notice two large ceramic goldfish ponds decorated in the lustrous blue glaze of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) style. In one of the hotel rooms, a beautiful antique carpet imported from Nepal around 150 years old adorns the floor.
In the same room, sits a table made from a precious wood dating back to the Qing Dynasty. Most importantly, these objects are not just decorations or historical relics put on display-they are actually there to be used by the guests.
The hotel lobby serves afternoon tea while the restaurant provides French cuisine.
"Our hotel is a perfect mixture of Chinese and Western cultures," Li, the general manager of the hotel says. "I love travel and have been to many European countries, which made me believe that the beauty of history-no matter whether it is Chinese or Western-is something we all have in common."
"Our guests can absorb the history of this space through its layout, atmosphere and furniture," she says.
The hotel has been converted from a traditional Beijing courtyard house. With only four rooms measuring between 50 and 115 square meters, it can only accommodate up to eight adult guests at the same time.
A staff of up to 20 waiters and waitresses, as well as domestic and British-style butlers, deliver private and individually tailored services for the guests.
"We pride ourselves on providing the ultimate guest experience, and privacy is one of the important elements for our clientele," Li says.
"When they need us, we are always there. When they don't, we are 'invisible'."
Many of my guests like to spend the day sitting on the bench in the hotel's courtyard, sipping tea and enjoying the time rather than going outside.
"Once you enter our courtyard, you are completely separated from the hustle and bustle outside. They are left only with the peaceful environment of the trees, flowers and fine food," she adds.
Rooms at the Cours et Pavillons Hotel cost between 2,200 yuan ($315) and 5,000 yuan a night,-considerably more than the average for five-star hotel in Beijing.
However, Li was surprised to find that not just wealthy businesspeople come to stay at the hotel. An increasing number of young customers aged between 20 and 35 stay at the hotel.
"Many of the young people come to our courtyard to enjoy the French restaurant and our unique rooms," she says. "They have a strong interest in exploring traditional Chinese culture."
She believes that unique, boutique hotels are a growing industry trend with a bright future, as contemporary travelers to place greater importance on individuality and tailored experiences.