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Covid-19 Restrictions, Local Competition Compels Airbnb to Shut Down Business in China

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Following an array of Covid-induced lockdowns in the country, home rental service Airbnb is shutting down its services in China. This comes after home stays in China made up only one per cent of Airbnb’s revenue over the last few years, as per a report in BBC. The report also added that all listings for homes and experiences in the country will be removed from the company’s website by summer.

The San Francisco-based company first launched its business in China six years ago and has booked stays at homes in the country for nearly 25 million guests. Before the pandemic, Chinese travellers heading abroad had tripled in less than a decade. The figures reached 155 million journeys in 2019, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. However, since 2020, China has had some of the toughest COVID restrictions in the world, making travel into and around the country extremely difficult.

It became more pronounced this year when mainland China tackled its worst Covid-19 outbreak in two years. Earlier in March, for more than three weeks, mainland China’s count of COVID-19 cases with symptoms topped 1,000 per day and touched regions across the country. The number of asymptomatic cases was far higher, reported CNBC.

Airbnb, in 2017, renamed the Chinese operation as Aibiying, which was easier to pronounce for Mandarin speakers. It was also an attempt to expand the services.

However, it is not just the recent decline in tourism that has compelled Airbnb to shut down its services in China. BBC reports that the domestic rental operation for travellers visiting China had been complicated and expensive to run even before the pandemic. The report added that guests’ details were sent to the Chinese government in line with local laws and regulations, and the company has been facing strong competition from native Chinese home-rental platforms.

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