Bed and Breakfast offers alternative accommodation for visitors to Hong Kong
By Lindy Wong and Derek Li
On a street packed with three-storey village houses and small stalls selling salty fish and shrimp paste in the village of Tai O, stands a house that has been elegantly re-styled in industrial concrete, wood and stone finishes. Guest accommodation is offered at this coolly contemporary house and you could easily imagine it as a boutique hotel, complete with restaurant and rooftop spa.
But owner Veronica Chan prefers to call it a B&B. B&B stands for bed and breakfast, a type of lodging establishment offering overnight accommodation and breakfast to travellers that first emerged in Europe and America.
In recent years, this kind of accommodation has also taken off in Asia. In Taiwan, travellers find B&Bs or homestays (民宿) provide a common and popular alternative to hotels and hostels. In both Taiwan and Japan, B&Bs are recognized and regulated businesses.
This is very different to Hong Kong. B&Bs do exist here but in very varied forms and price ranges. In general, they are accommodation units with basic utilities, furniture and an internet connection that are rented out on a daily basis.
Veronica Chan launched Espace Elastique, which offers three rooms, in December 2009 and has been running it as a B&B ever since. It used to be her family house and was later rented to locals. Chan turned it into a B&B after her father became too old to manage it.
Chan enjoys interacting with her guests. She thinks communication is what distinguishes B&Bs from other accommodation. “In hotels you just check-in and go straight to your room. It is very robotic,” she says.
In order to ensure the quality of service, Chan insists on being personally involved in daily operations. Not only is she engaged in duties like serving the visitors, cooking and cleaning, but she also takes time to sit down and have a cup of tea with them.
One visitor from the UK, Kam Sanghera, chose to stay at Espace Elastique for a two-day break after his two-week business trip. He has travelled extensively and stayed in various types of accommodation around the world, but he finds the personal interaction with the host is what makes him prefer B&Bs over business hotels.
“It’s hard for the big businesses of hotels to get beyond just the services. They are very good for facilities, but they are not as friendly or personal as B&B.”
Apart from bonding with the visitors, Chan also regularly organizes local tours in Tai O and workshops making shrimp paste and steamed buns so that they can experience the local culture.