Airbnb is indefinitely closing its business in China as the country’s zero-Covid policy, lockdowns and travel restrictions remain in place.
On Tuesday, Airbnb informed its China-based users that it would stop all bookings for accommodations and experiences in China starting July 30. The ability to book dates after July 29 was suspended Tuesday morning, according to screenshots of Airbnb’s announcement shared on Chinese social media. An attempt by the Guardian to take bookings from outside of China after this date resulted in an error message.
According to a source familiar with the decision, who confirmed the closure, Airbnb’s domestic business in China is suffering from China’s pandemic restrictions, with no sign of authorities intending to seek coexistence with the virus or open its borders.
As a wave of omicron cases has spread across China, the government has doubled down on its policies to eliminate Covid-19. Major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing have been placed in city-wide or local lockdowns, and there are widespread travel restrictions between cities and provinces.
The accommodation provider has been operating in China since 2016 with domestic offerings across the country. About 25 million guests have booked during that time, according to the company, but it’s costly and complex to operate and faces stiff local competition. Revenue from stays in China accounts for about 1% of global revenue, the source told the Guardian, and Covid-19 has exacerbated the problems and amplified their impact.
Chinese media outlet Phoenix News reported that Airbnb will have an office with “hundreds” of employees in Beijing.
The company declined to comment further on the records.
The news became a trending topic on China’s social media platform Weibo on Tuesday, with many comments focusing on how small Airbnb’s market share was even before the pandemic.
Chinese residents face severe restrictions when traveling internationally, which has impacted the global tourism industry. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad nearly tripled to 155 million.
But as the rest of the world reopens, Airbnb has claimed to hit a record number of bookings in the first quarter of this year, with more than 102 million bookings for accommodations and experiences. “Guests are booking more than ever,” Airbnb said in a letter to shareholders. “Looking ahead, we see strong ongoing pent-up demand.”
The company said the trend of people booking stays outside of urban areas and staying relatively close to home continued, but guests were also returning to cities and taking cross-border trips.
Additional reporting by Xiaoqian Zhu