In an older post, I commented on the rise of entrepreneurs from China’s major urban areas buying old run-down properties in picturesque villages and turning them into boutique hotels for a new class of urban Chinese independent travelers. Recently, the New York Times ran a story on foreign entrepreneurs doing the same thing. The article focuses on the Linden Center, near Dali in Yunnan, and the Yangshuo Village Inn, both owned by Americans. Their hotels mostly tap into the upscale foreign tourist market and, ironically, are often regarded as ‘too rustic’ for most Chinese tourists who can afford the relatively high price. While it seems likely that the Chinese market for rustic rural boutique hotels can only grow, it is also interesting to think a bit about the different aesthetic ideals of Chinese vs. Western travelers, as well as about their different conceptions of authenticity. The Linden Center and Yangshuo Village Inn very much appeal to a certain aesthetic of rustic rural China that is somewhat foreign to the majority of Chinese travelers.
The article also features our own Ian Rowen, who has a lot of experience in the Chinese tourism field and who has stayed at Linden Center and studied the trend of ‘eco-lodge’ style tourism that has swept across much of rural China. Here’s the bit from Ian:
The Lindens’ hotel is far from an authentic representation of China, said Ian Rowen, a geography doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado. However, he said, the Lindens have created a novel and tasteful way to introduce international tourists to Chinese and some ethnic-minority traditions.
“It’s a good example of the way that heritage tourism can proceed,” said Mr. Rowen, who has worked in China’s tourism industry and conducted academic research at the Lindens’ hotel.