Several China-based hosts and users said that they’re unfazed and will use local platforms instead.
Airbnb’s Beijing office and its hundreds of employees will focus on outbound businesses.
Airbnb will be removing all 150,000 of its listings in China from July 30, the vacation-rental company announced on Tuesday.
The announcement comes six years after Airbnb set up operations in China in 2016.
“We have made the difficult decision to refocus our efforts in China on outbound travel and suspend our homes and Experiences of Hosts in China, starting from July 30, 2022,” Airbnb cofounder Nathan Blecharczyk wrote in a letter posted on Airbnb’s official WeChat account.
China’s zero-Covid policy and its constant lockdowns were contributing factors in the company’s decision to pull out of China, a source familiar with the matter told Insider. The source requested anonymity for professional reasons.
In 2017, Blecharczyk relocated to Beijing to head the team in China. The company rebranded to “Aibiying” in the same year. But since its launch in China, Airbnb has struggled to compete with domestic players. Bookings in China accounted for approximately 1% of Airbnb’s total revenue over the last few years, the source said.
“We will continue to incur significant expenses to operate our business in China, and we may never achieve profitability or sizable supply penetration in that market,” Airbnb wrote in its 2020 SEC report.
Airbnb hosts in China appear to be unfazed by the announcement.
“Can’t talk about disappointment; businesses have business laws,” Airbnb superhost Guang Su told Insider. Guang rents out two apartments in Beijing, ranging between $113 and $214 a night. He has 254 reviews, most of which are positive.
Peiying, a Shanghai-based Airbnb host with 31 listings who asked only to be identified by her first name, told Insider she would continue operating on other platforms. “I’m on Meituan and Ctrip. My prices are the same across all platforms and I hope to keep it that way. But it is likely I have to reduce the number of listings I operate due to the loss of the Airbnb market,” she said. Peiying is an architect by trade and rents out old Shanghai houses that she remodeled herself, according to her Airbnb profile.
Meituan is China’s leading online accommodation booking platform, while Ctrip is a travel aggregator that helps customers make hotel and flight bookings in China.
On Weibo, the Twitter of China, the predominant sentiment surrounding Airbnb’s departure from China was consistent with the reactions from Airbnb hosts.
“At the start, people used Airbnb to book homestays overseas. But after Meituan and Ctrip started to have homestay sections, we found that Airbnb did not have as much discount as the latter two, so I started to use it less,” a Guangdong-based Weibo user wrote on the social-media platform.
“It’s used for travelling abroad, but its domestic competitors are too strong. Ctrip has good reviews — who wouldn’t use it?” a Zhejiang-based user wrote on Weibo.
“Listings are listing; Airbnb listings can be cheaper sometimes, but there are expensive listings too — it depends on the situation. There is just one less option at the end of the day,” wrote a Yunnan-based Weibo user.
Airbnb’s Beijing office will still remain fully operational and will focus entirely on outbound travels, Blecharczyk wrote in the WeChat letter.
Airbnb has been facing increased difficulty in complying with China’s ever-changing regulations, the SEC report said. In September 2021, local authorities passed a ruling requiring hosts of short-term rentals to post six certificates in order to operate. Certifications include homeownership, owners’ IDs, and a written guarantee for public security signed by the police. The six certificates were not easy to obtain, and non-compliant properties had to be removed immediately, per Global Times. Airbnb also had to share users’ data with the Chinese government.
Airbnb declined Insider’s request for comment.