Airbnb will leave China on July 30 due to “pandemic challenges”
China: Airbnb is set to close its domestic tourism operations and experience listings in China in July due to the effects of the country’s closures and restrictions, as part of its increasingly strict zero-Covid strategy on the national and international tourism.
Home-sharing platform co-founder and President of China Nathan Blecharczyk confirmed news on Tuesday that Airbnb will stop taking reservations for accommodations and experiences from July 30, with Airbnb reviews posted on social media and attempted bookings from outside of China being blocked.
Attributing the closure to “pandemic challenges,” Blecharczyk said Airbnb China would “consolidate and instead focus on the outbound tourism business” after years of trying to establish itself in the previously lucrative Chinese market, but the company plans to maintain its current office. with “hundreds” of employees in Beijing, according to a media Phoenix News.
After launching in mainland China in 2016, Airbnb says it has logged about 25 million stays in national listings across the country, with inbound tourism bookings accounting for about 1% of the company’s overall revenue.
However, the operating costs of Airbnb’s Chinese operations and strong competition from local platforms such as Tujia, Xiaozhu and Ctrip have made it increasingly difficult to justify the company’s presence in China with a low share of market, and the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these existing problems.
Despite a sustained push to increase its market share in China and rebranding to “Aibiying” to appeal to Chinese citizens in 2017, Airbnb has struggled to grow and generate profits in the country.
According to a University of Queensland report released last year, Airbnb had nearly 150,000 units listed in China in 2020, compared to 1.2 million on Tujia alone.
Now that the world is starting to open up after the pandemic, Airbnb reports a record number of reservations [102 million accommodation and experiences bookings] in the first quarter of this year, indicating strong pent-up demand for long-term travel. Contrast this with China where nationals are restricted to domestic and cross-border travel and foreign tourists are almost completely banned from entering the country, while there is no current indication towards a shift towards coexistence with Omicron and any other strain of the coronavirus.
The lack of outbound tourism from China is also having a significant impact on the global tourism industry, particularly after the number of Chinese tourists venturing abroad rose nearly 300% to 155 million between 2010 and 2019.
Chinese authorities have said they will “strictly limit” outbound travel by making it more difficult for citizens to obtain or renew passports, while anyone returning to the country from abroad is required by the law to self-quarantine in designated hotels for up to four weeks.
China’s zero-Covid strategy to eliminate the virus has been called ‘unsustainable’ by the World Health Organization [WHO] earlier this month, and authorities moved to silence the voices of critics of the strategy, including Trip.com co-founder James Liang, who was banned from posting on the platform Weibo social media outlet after appearing to suggest that overly strict pandemic prevention policies will inflict greater damage to the economy and life expectancy than the virus itself.
Airbnb’s relationship with China had become increasingly strained after the resignation of former trustee director and a former deputy FBI director, Sean Joyce, over reported data-sharing issues. While Airbnb said it was transparent about the data it shared with Chinese authorities, Chinese police were beginning to warn hosts that home-sharing activity on Airbnb was illegal and violated government oversight over its citizens.
Meanwhile, Airbnb has been urged to withdraw its support for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics by activists in China fighting for the rights of Uyghur Muslims in the country, who have allegedly been persecuted and held in secret internment camps. .
Airbnb now becomes the latest major Silicon Valley company to pull out of the Chinese market, following Uber’s decision to sell its operations in the country to compete with Didi Chuxing and the departure of LinkedIn in October 2021.