Home-sharing giant Airbnb is adopting the name “Aibiying” (“爱彼迎” in Chinese characters) in China, one that translates as “welcome each other with love,” as it doubles investment in the country and triples its local workforce to serve the world’s largest population of travelers.
The startup intends to ramp up its Chinese business after more than doubling listings in the country to about 80,000 in 2016, Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky said.
This year, it plans to offer customers in Shanghai its fledgling Airbnb Trips service -- a menu of options that can include concert tickets and restaurant reservations.
It’ll begin to market “Experiences,” a feature that from Wednesday will let visitors to the eastern Chinese city book local-led excursions -- including going behind the scenes of a traditional folk opera and learning about dough figurines.
Airbnb, last valued at more than USD 30 billion, is accelerating its drive into Asia after recently turning profitable for the first time. Since its start in 2008, the company has raised more than USD 3 billion to pursue its goal of becoming a full-service travel company and expand its business around the world.
Airbnb has taken its time building relationships with Chinese movers and shakers -- it still hasn’t named a local CEO. A 2014 partnership with Alibaba Group Holding made it easy for Chinese users to pay for Airbnb rentals with Alipay, the local equivalent of PayPal. A tie-up with Tencent Holdings Ltd. got Airbnb built into WeChat, by far China’s dominant messaging app. Last year, Airbnb teamed up with the governments of four major cities, including Shanghai and tech hub Shenzhen, for tourism promotions.
But any move within China pits Airbnb against local leader Tujia, which lists more than 450,000 homes and is constantly adding more. Its backers include Ctrip -- the world’s second largest online travel agency -- and HomeAway.
Tujia’s edge stems in part from its understanding of the needs of Chinese travelers: it provides services from property management and inspections of listings to cleanups after guests leave.
Airbnb however has the advantage of being able to offer more extensive global accommodation to a growing wave of international vacationers. The company estimates outbound travel from China grew 142% last year, and that it’s served more than 5.3 million of the country’s globe-trotters.
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