Sanghera values the travelling experience and thinks staying in a B&B completes his trip. “I like to go somewhere you get to meet people who live here, and somewhere where I can actually get closer to where I stay.”
While Chan is offering boutique hotel style accommodation with a personal touch, Joe, who does not want to disclose his full name, is running a very different type of operation.
Joe has been running two B&Bs located in the New Territories since last year. It did not start off as a business. Joe was hosting couch surfers just out of interest, when he realized he could turn it into a profitable business. He started renting out his extra room on Airbnb, an online service that matches people seeking accommodation with those with rooms to rent. Later, he rented another apartment to run as a B&B. The business is doing so well that he quit his job in an engineering company and is now considering the possibility of starting a third B&B.
Joe agrees the personal touch is what makes B&B stand out from hotels and hostels. “I would rather wait (for my guests) at the bus stop and bring them up to my flat myself than simply leave the key at the front desk like ordinary hotels do,” he says.
On top of that, Joe loves to show his guests around personally. He has taken visitors to the wet market and to try hotpot and noodles. “Sometimes the visitors and I will go hiking or cycling together if we get along,” adds Joe.
Rachel Patterson and Jeff Bergemann, a couple from America, chose to stay in Joe’s apartment during their Hong Kong visit. They appreciate how Joe helped them to explore the city.
“Joe took us to a restaurant downstairs and we had siu-mei (roasted meat) rice for lunch yesterday. He ordered for us, which is good because I don’t speak Chinese,” laughs Patterson.
But while guests at B&Bs may be impressed by the personal service, they may or may not be aware of whether the accommodation is licensed.
In Taiwan and Japan, B&Bs are clearly defined. They have to obtain registration certificates specifically for B&Bs and satisfy requirements such as fire safety, plumbing, sanitation, space, light and ventilation. But Hong Kong has no system to regulate or licence them.
Instead, any accommodation with a rental period of less than 28 continuous days and the rent settled on a daily basis is required to obtain a guesthouse licence under the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance. That means anyone running a B&B would have to meet the standards required of a hotel.