Airbnb takes local route, renames itself in China

Motivated by how millennials travel in China, Airbnb as announced to expand its business, rename itself and introduced latest features as well as localization of the product

Airbnb Aibiying

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Airbnb, the online marketplace for hospitality services recently raised $1 billion in its latest round of funding which led to many speculations about the company’s future plans. Was it going to take the global travel and tourism route and invest more into long term residency, luxury rentals or explore the idea of becoming a full service global travel company?

In a bid to accelerate growth across its businesses in 191 countries, the company has announced to expand its business in China as the first step. Co-Founder, CEO, and Head of Community Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO, and Head of Community publicized a series of plans to better serve Chinese travelers, particularly millennials, who are seeking an alternative way to travel. The company states that more than 80% of its users in China are aged under 35, which is more than any other country that it operates in.

What is China getting?

The company unveiled Airbnb’s new Chinese brand name, ‘Aibiying’, which translates into ‘welcome each other with love’, and also announced the release of Trips and Experiences (the app which offered travelers the ability to book restaurant reservations and city tours) in China.

The online hospitality company also stated that it will more than triple the size of its local workforce this year and double its investment in the market. It is also expecting to boost the number of engineers in China as the country has the only Airbnb engineering center outside of the United States.

Competition?

Airbnb will be going toe-to-toe with Ctrip and Tujia ( from Expedia’s stables), which operate in the home-sharing space in the country as well as local players such as Mayi (acquired by Tujia) and Xiaozhu. According to a report by China Internet Watch, Tujia, has more than 400,000 listings across travel destinations and cities in China.

Mayi on the other hand, which was acquired by Tujia last year, offers more than 300,000 short term accommodations along with tourism giveaways and car rental plans. Xiaozhu works like Airbnb’s experiences, apart from having over 140,000 listings, it encourages its landlords to share their life experiences with the travelers.

Airbnb claims that there have been more than 5.3 million guest arrivals by Chinese travelers at Airbnb listings all over the world and outbound travel from China has grown 142% in 2016 alone. Organically the company has been able to generate 80,000 listings and has seen nearly 1.6 million guest arrivals at listings within China.

Trips & Experiences

Airbnb has released its latest innovation Trips with the launch of Airbnb Experiences in Shanghai. Using Trips, the company strategizes to move beyond accommodation to offer an alternative to standard tourist experiences, giving access to local culture, places and people that visitors wouldn’t otherwise see or meet.

Localization of the app

The company has also customized its service in China to further localize the product. It has improved website translation and integrated local payment methods such as Alipay and also introduced sign up options such as WeChat, for providing access to customer support in Mandarin.

China plans

Airbnb claims that the next step will be to rethink the core booking experience to go even further in meeting the needs of Chinese users. For example, by providing them with more information to help pick the right neighborhoods to stay in.

Airbnb has also sought to partner with cities to help them maximise the benefits of home sharing and has signed MOU agreements with the cities of Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Guangzhou. According to media reports, the company has also agreed to share data on its operations in the country with its officials to be compliant to a law that will go into effect in a couple of months.

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