Airbnb will close down all China-based services, including rental listings and experiences, starting July 30, the company announced Tuesday. In a letter to its customers in China, the vacation rental company said it predicts more Chinese tourists will be traveling abroad as the coronavirus pandemic gradually winds down around the world.
News of the withdrawal, first reported by CNBC, comes as China tries to clamp down on outbreaks in its biggest cities while keeping strict control of its borders under a “zero covid” policy. For more than two years, Beijing has adhered to tough quarantine measures — usually a three-week stint at a government-designated facility — that made inbound journeys difficult even for Chinese citizens. Occasional outbreaks within the country have also weakened the domestic tourism industry as regional officials impose ever-changing public health rules.
Since Airbnb’s debut in China six years ago, the platform has attracted more than 25 million guest arrivals, the company’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, Nathan Blecharczyk, said in a letter to Airbnb hosts posted on the company’s WeChat account. But the trips taken in China amounted to only 1 percent of Airbnb’s revenue in the past few years, according to CNBC. The company will still operate overseas bookings for Chinese users.
Airbnb faced fierce competition from Chinese alternatives and never managed to stake out a significant share of the rental market. One of those competitors, Tujia, has offered to take over Airbnb listings on its platform, according to a Chinese media outlet.
The suspension of China-based bookings makes Airbnb the latest Western tech company to exit the country in recent years.
In October, Microsoft shut down its LinkedIn service inside China after being slammed with public criticism for censoring the posts of several U.S. journalists. At the time, LinkedIn said its departure was caused by “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements” in the country.
Jeanne Whalen contributed to this report.