Airbnb will remove its Chinese listings this summer due to the domestic business being “costly and complex" to operate, a source confirms to PhocusWire sister brand WebInTravel.
When reached for comment, Airbnb declined to make a statement.
Says the source: “China has been on lockdown since early 2020, and with no end in sight Airbnb formally launched its mainland China business in 2016. Then, and now, the biggest opportunity was outbound travel (i.e., Chinese going abroad).”
According to the UNWTO, by 2019, the number of outbound tourists from China reached nearly 155 million, almost three times as many as 2010.
“Historically outbound travel from China has been a significant source of travel into other APAC destinations and therefore a valuable driver of Airbnb’s network effect in the region," the source says.
"Airbnb expects outbound tourism from China to rebound as borders reopen and COVID-19 subsides. Likewise for cross-border travel throughout APAC.”
Since 2016, Airbnb has recorded 25 million guest arrivals using its Chinese listings. The source says that the overlap between Airbnb’s outbound and domestic businesses was not strong. In addition, “the domestic segment is costly and complex to operate. COVID-19 worsened these issues and heightened their impact.”
According to the source, stays in China have accounted for approximately 1% of revenue for the last few years.
The move comes as companies feel a slowdown in China due to its “zero COVID” policy, which has locked down mainland Chinese cities.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
In 2018, Airbnb hired Chinese entrepreneur Tao Peng as president in China. At the time, chairman of Airbnb China Nathan Blecharczyk say the business was “still in the very early days” in the country and needed someone who knew the destination to move quickly.
Speaking with PhocusWire in 2019, Peng said Airbnb expected China to be its top origin market globally by 2020. “At Airbnb, we have an inherent advantage: Our global network of listings around the world is unrivaled, and it is important to travelers planning their next trip. We have already seen significant progress. For example, in the second half of 2018, the number of guest arrivals in Airbnb listings in China increased nearly 3X,” he said.
“One of the reasons why I came to Airbnb is because the company was patient and deliberate about their work in China: They spent years listening and learning, and that spirit and way of doing things continues to guide our work.
“There are a lot of things that make Airbnb different - from the services we offer to the way we approach growth in this market - and I’m cognizant of the challenges, but confident that we can succeed.”
According to The New York Times, about 150,000 listings in China will be removed.