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Airbnb Joins Exodus of Western Internet Firms Leaving China


Airbnb
Airbnb formally launched its mainland China business in 2015 and has faced mounting competition from domestic players. Photo: Reuters.

 

Airbnb, the home rental firm based in San Francisco, said on Tuesday that it will shut its domestic listings and business in mainland China from July 30.

The news was announced in a letter to Chinese users on the group’s official WeChat account, which said they would still be able to book listings and experiences abroad.

No reasons were given for the decision, however many other Western internet platforms have also opted to shut operations and not do business in China.

“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,” Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder of Airbnb, wrote in the letter.

 

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150,000 Listings to be Removed

Airbnb joins a long line of Western internet firms, such as LinkedIn and Yahoo, that have retreated from China, in a sign of the internet decoupling of the world’s second-largest economy and much of the rest of the world.

Almost all major Western internet platforms including Alphabet Inc’s Google and Meta Platforms’ Facebook have ceased to provide services to end users in mainland China, citing reasons ranging from censorship to operation difficulties in the country.

Blecharczyk said the decision was difficult and he was proud of what Airbnb had achieved in China.

“The decision was not easy for us and I know that it is even more difficult for you,” he said, “We’ve built and grown a thriving Host community in China together and have welcomed more than 25 million guest arrivals since 2016.”

CNBC first reported Airbnb’s decision earlier on Tuesday. The company planned to tell employees in the country on Tuesday morning in Beijing, it said, adding that all of Airbnb’s mainland Chinese listings, homes and experiences, would be taken down by this summer.

The New York Times reported that as part of its retreat, Airbnb would remove about 150,000 listings in China, out of six million it had around the world. Stays in China have accounted for roughly 1% of Airbnb’s business in recent years, according to the reports.

Airbnb did not immediately replied to questions sent by Reuters.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb started providing services in mainland China in 2015. It had made efforts to localise its services, including integrating with Chinese platforms like Tencent Holdings’ WeChat. Its main Chinese rivals are Tujia and Xiaozhu.

Airbnb’s shares gained 0.65% during Monday trading on Nasdaq but have receded 1.59% in post-market trading.

 

• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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