Airbnb stops booking stays in China: source

Airbnb has proven far more popular with people in China looking to book stays outside the country than it has for arranging accommodation in homes there.

SAN FRANCISCO – Home rental service Airbnb is shutting down operations in China as the pandemic lockdown shows no signs of ending it, a source close to the company told AFP on Monday.

Airbnb will no longer book guest stays or “experiences” in China, instead focusing on helping people there with out-of-country travel plans, the source said.

The San Francisco-based company declined to comment.

Airbnb launched operations in China six years ago and has booked home stays there for some 25 million customers. Reservations at residences in China have accounted for just one percent of Airbnb bookings in recent years, the company reported.

Airbnb has faced stiff competition in China, and Covid-19 has made its operations there more complicated and more expensive.

China has persisted with its zero-Covid policy, imposing strict shutdowns and movement restrictions on several cities, even as much of the rest of the world has transitioned to living with the coronavirus.

The restrictions, including stay-at-home orders in economic hub Shanghai and creeping restrictions in Beijing, have taken a heavy economic toll.

Airbnb expects outbound tourism from China, which was booming before the pandemic, to rebound as Covid-19 restrictions ease and borders reopen.

Bookings on Airbnb hit a new high in the first quarter of this year, the company said in a recent earnings report, signaling that travel demand stifled by the Covid-19 pandemic is running wild.

Despite Omicron’s surge and a persistent level of infections, Airbnb bookings for accommodation and travel “experiences” exceeded 102 million in the first three months of this year, setting a new quarterly record, a the company said in an earnings release.

“Guests are booking more than ever before,” Airbnb told shareholders in a letter.

“Looking forward, we are seeing sustained strong pent-up demand.”

The company said trends of people booking stays away from urban areas and staying relatively close to home continue, but customers are returning to cities and taking cross-border trips.

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