China’s internet sanctions drive out Airbnb

Airbnb says it can’t compete with cheaper local “superapps”

National Weekend Edition /
May.May 28, 2022 03:00 PM
Airbnb's Brian Chesky, China, Houses

Airbnb’s Brian Chesky (Getty, iStock)

Airbnb, a favored app of China’s millennials, plans to shut down its operations in the world’s most populous nation as Beijing’s internet sanctions push the rest of the world further away.

Airbnb is leaving China, where it has operated since 2016, citing difficulties competing with local “superapps” that offer cheaper stays, the New York Times reported. The move comes as China began emphasizing domestic businesses, making more demands of foreign companies and censoring content. The sanctions led LinkedIn, the last U.S. social network in China, to exit in October.

San Francisco-based Airbnb will still serve Chinese customers looking to travel outside the nation and will keep its Beijing office open with a few hundred employees. The company will remove about 150,000 listings in China, which accounted for about one percent of Airbnb’s recent business.

Airbnb had been especially popular with Chinese millennials, who made up 69 percent of its customers there. About 70 percent of them own their own home — a higher percentage than Americans of any age — and often list them for rent when they travel. The category outnumbers America’s total population.

Earlier this month, Airbnb reported a record 102 million night and “experiences” bookings for the first quarter, surpassing the 100 million mark for the first time despite the war in Ukraine, rising interest rates and accelerating inflation.

Airbnb now has more short-term rental listings in New York City than standard rental units. According to Curbed, in April, the number of full units available to rent in Brooklyn, Manhattan and northwest Queens had fallen to 7,669, while two websites tracking the number of short-term rentals on Airbnb reported it had reached more than 10,000 — and could be closer to 20,000.

Airbnb has routinely denied its service plays a role in housing shortages, saying it provides supplemental income that helps people keep living in expensive cities that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

[NYT] — Victoria Pruitt 





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