A municipal standard was recently drafted to bring courtyard homestay families in the ancient city center in Beijing under regulation and provide standardized services to foreign guests who relish the idea of staying in traditional Hutongs in Beijing.
The Beijing Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision published a series of criteria to assess homestay family services and are soliciting for public opinion. Only if a courtyard meets the standards can it call itself a true "Beijing Homestay."
The "Olympic Homestay" families during the 2008 Beijing Games were selected through stringent regulations, but now families will have to pass an even stricter selection process.
Only well-protected and traditionally furnished courtyards in ancient hutong are eligible applicants, and the draft regulates specific, and some may say trivial, details. Besides clean bedding, a working toilet and daily necessities, family members in a qualified Beijing Homestay must be "dressed up in folk costumes" and lead a traditional hutong lifestyle. The hosts are required to live in the same courtyard, but they are not supposed to dine with the guests unless they are asked to do so.
The hosts who have direct contact with guests must have a government health certificate. At least one person should be able to speak in a foreign language, and at least one English-language TV channel is required in the guest room.
Liu Jun, deputy director of the Xicheng District Tourism Bureau, however, said he did not expect many courtyards to be qualified. "There were only 33 Olympic Homestay families in Xicheng during the Olympics, including courtyards and apartments," Liu said.
However, most of the families ceased receiving guests after they cashed in during the Beijing's cutthroat Olympic rental frenzy. Few actually live in courtyard homes nowadays, as many of the remaining traditional courtyards have been sold to businesses or transferred for other usage, according to Liu.
"No more than five such courtyards will be eligible for a Beijing Homestay," said Wang Heng, owner of a courtyard called Jing Huo Homestay, formerly an Olympic Homestay.
Most foreign tourists who want to live in a traditional courtyard would have to stay in a courtyard hotel, which are usually renovated with more individual rooms and employ many service personnel.
Wang said he would like to apply and brand his courtyard as a Beijing Homestay because he believes the official brand will assure his foreign guests of quality service and safety.