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Airbnb shuts down its local business in China

  • >> Erin Griffith, The New York Times
    Published: 2022-05-24 10:47:07 BdST

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Small toy figures are seen in front of displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS

Airbnb, a home rental company, plans to shut down its domestic business in China, in a further sign of the internet decoupling between China and much of the rest of the world.

Airbnb, which has operated in China since 2016, is retreating from the country after struggling to compete with local “superapps” that charge lower fees and less per night on average than in other regions, said a person with knowledge of the situation. The pandemic compounded Airbnb’s business woes, the person said, as China’s “zero-COVID” policy sent millions into strict lockdown.

Airbnb’s move highlights a growing divide between China’s internet and that of the rest of the world. Many US internet companies have left China after Beijing emphasised domestic businesses, exercised censorship and made other demands of companies. LinkedIn, the only remaining US social network to operate in China, pulled out of the country in October, citing a lack of success with its social media and information features. Airbnb is the last remaining big US internet company in China.

Airbnb, based in San Francisco, will continue to operate a business serving Chinese tourists who were traveling outside of China, the person with knowledge of the situation said. It will keep its Beijing office open with a few hundred employees, the person added.

As part of its retreat, Airbnb will remove roughly 150,000 listings in China, out of 6 million around the world. Stays in the country have accounted for roughly 1% of Airbnb’s business in recent years, the person said.

Airbnb generated $6 billion in revenue last year, up 77% from a year earlier. Like many tech companies that went public in recent years, it is under pressure to turn a profit. Airbnb’s stock has fallen 34% this year amid a wider rout, even as tourism has surged and the demand for travel services has grown.

CNBC earlier reported on Airbnb’s decision.

©2022 The New York Times Company