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Airbnb to close its domestic business in mainland China

The vacation rental firm joins a long list of Western internet platforms that have opted out of the China market, citing reasons ranging from censorship to operation difficulties.
/ Source: Reuters

Vacation rental firm Airbnb said on Tuesday it will shut down all listings and experiences in mainland China starting 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.

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Aribnb 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’s Google and Meta’s 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 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 percent of Airbnb’s business in recent years, according to the reports.

Airbnb did not immediately reply to questions sent by Reuters.

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 like Tencent Holdings’ WeChat. Its main Chinese rivals are Tujia and Xiaozhu.