Beijing families vie to make Olympics guests feel at home
www.chinaview.cn 2008-02-25 14:47:29   Print

Special report:   2008 Olympic Games 

    By Xinhua writer Gui Tao

    BEIJING, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Zoo worker Zhang Yizhuo was frolicking with his one-year-old son on the drawing room rug as his wife played a serenade nearby on a piano.

    This ordinary Beijing family is one of those who have applied to be a homestay host for the 2008 Olympic Games.

    Zhang, who works at the Beijing Zoo, lives in the Anhuili Community near the "Bird's Nest", the main stadium for the Beijing Olympics. He filed the application a year ago in hopes that his home would become one of the 1,000 officially designated "Olympic Family Hotels".

    The Beijing-bred man was confident: his family has two clean sunlit rooms and fluent English proficiency.

    "I know so much about animals such as pandas and golden monkeys that I can get along very well with anyone who likes these creatures," he said confidently. "I can even take my guests to the zoo to see how I work with lovely animals," he added.

    Zhang's wife, a piano teacher, planned to soothe the guests' ears with Chinese and foreign classics." As animals and music are universal topics among all people, I am sure that we can have excellent communication with our guests," she said.

    Zhang works as an enrichment specialist at the zoo. He explained that his job was "creating a comfortable environment to address an animal's psychological and physical needs."

    "Even animals prefer a comfortable living environment, let alone a traveler newly transplanted into a totally different culture," he said. "I want to make them feel as if they were at home," he added.

    The selection of the homestay families will start in March, according to the Beijing Tourist Bureau.

    Hosts should be able to provide foreign guests with spare rooms, good ventilation and sanitary conditions in buildings that have good fire fighting conditions, emergency lighting and so forth, said Xiong Yumei, deputy director of the bureau.

    Beijing is gearing up to accommodate at least 330,000 visitors every day during the Olympics. About 500,000 foreigners are expected to visit the capital at some point during the games, along with huge numbers of domestic tourists.

    "There will be sufficient beds, with the city's hotels able to accommodate more than 640,000 people every day," Xiong said.

    The cost of each "Olympic Family Hotel" is 50 to 80 dollars per night, only seventh to a regular hotel room for the Games.

    Although the homestay concept is relatively new here, many Chinese are enthusiastic about hosting foreign visitors during the Olympics.

    Zhang said that he would do his utmost to ensure guests were safe and comfortable, and he had made plans to feed them.

    "If my guests want to cook by themselves, I can provide all facilities -- actually I am considering buying a hot plate in case they are not used to gas," he said.

    "But if they want to have a taste of the genuine Beijing flavor, I will cook for them -- with all the raw materials from quality supermarkets in the community to ensure food safety," he added.

    High on the family's preparation list are such steps as decorating the rooms with more traditional Chinese crafts, brushing up on their English by attending classes and visiting the new Olympic venues to familiarize themselves with the transport routes.

    Besides housing, people skills and willingness to serve would also be considered in the selection, according to the tourism authorities.

    "We hope that there would be something beyond a rental relationship between the host families and their guests," Xiong said. "We hope they can become friends."

    Zhang had already gained some experiences by hosting foreign friends. What was his advice for potential Olympic hosts?

    "Do not intrude on their privacy and ask for their salaries and ages as we do among Chinese," he said seriously.

    Zhang attributed his application to his three-month stay with a Sydney family during the 2000 Olympic Games.

    "Compared with living in a hotel, a tourist can have a deeper insight into the people and culture of a country by living with a common family," he said. "Meanwhile, it is much cheaper."

    He wanted to pass on what he had received.

    Zhang said he had been deeply touched when his host family had tailored for him a route to see city's "musts" and reminded him, like family members, to wear a helmet when riding a bike.

    "I want guests to my family to have a good impression of the Games, the city and China as a whole by living under my roof," he said.

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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