Chinese homestay businesses are stepping up to take over homeowners registered with Airbnb who have been left hanging following the announcement that the American holiday rentals operator is set to pull its domestic business out of China from 30 July, due partly to the repeated local lockdowns following the country’s firm stance on a “zero-COVID” policy, as hinted by major Western media.
Airbnb’s office in Beijing with some hundreds of staff will remain in operation, focusing on “the outbound tourism services” providing listings for Chinese travellers going abroad, as per an open letter published on 24 May on Airbnb’s Host Community on WeChat.
Following Airbnb’s scale-back, its domestic rivals such as Tujia, one of China’s leading homestay platforms that has often been compared to Airbnb, have acknowledged the possible impact on Airbnb homeowners, especially independent hosts who have newly listed and soon introduced a “green review channel” to provide fast-track relocation services. It also established a special task force responsible for coordinating Airbnb hosts to move onto its own platform.
Also joining the race is Meituan Homestay, a subsidiary under China’s largest local life service platform Meituan. The “New Host Support Scheme” announced by the platform provides more comprehensive services including operation training and tailored support, allowing entrants to better settle into the new online environment. Similar measures have also been made available for affected hosts by one of China’s popular travel agencies Fliggy and its invested arm Xiaozhu, which has been expanding its footprint into rural tourism in recent years.
Such swift action taken by these domestic players comes from the belief in recovering demand for folk house rentals, as nearby trips become the go-to option for Chinese who don’t want to miss out on the joy of travelling amid China’s stringent COVID restrictions.
Although the homestay market saw a plunge whilst China was at the height of the pandemic in 2020 and a continued slide the year after, the industry is soon expected to see a bounce back with China’s short-distance traveller numbers set to surpass 4 billion in the following five years, generating an estimated revenue of 1.2 trillion RMB ($179.23 billion) by 2025.