Vacation rental firm Airbnb said on Tuesday, May 24, it will shut down all listings and experiences in mainland China from July 30, joining a long list of Western internet platforms that have opted out of the China market.
The company made the announcement in a letter posted to its official WeChat account addressed to its Chinese users without elaborating on the reasons behind the decision. The San Francisco-based company said Chinese users would still be allowed to book listings and experiences abroad.
“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.
The Global Times newspaper, citing a source close to the company, said Airbnb had decided to shut the domestic business down because it was too costly and complex to operate, which had been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airbnb did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Airbnb joins a long line of Western internet firms such as Linkedin and Yahoo that have retreated from China in recent months, 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 Inc’s Facebook have ceased to provide services to end users in mainland China, citing reasons ranging from censorship to operation difficulties in the country.
China’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 has also led to business disruptions across the country as several cities have been locked down, including the major economic hub of Shanghai.
CNBC first reported Airbnb’s decision earlier on Tuesday.
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.
Founded in 2008, Airbnb started providing services in mainland China in 2015. It had made efforts to localize its services, including integrating with Chinese platforms such as 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. – Rappler.com