On Tuesday, San Francisco-based home rental company Airbnb announced it would no longer continue its domestic business operations in China. The company’s only focus on the Chinese market will be restricted to those traveling abroad from China.
The primary reason for Airbnb’s exit from the domestic market in China is the continuing lockdowns occurring in the country under its zero-COVID policy. Only outbound travelers from China will be able to book accommodations with Airbnb.
Airbnb said in a letter posted on its social media that it would remove all Chinese listings and experiences from its platform by July 30.
CNBC, which first reported the news, stated that Airbnb will keep one office in Beijing open with hundreds of employees. Stays in China reportedly accounted for only 1% of Airbnb’s revenue over the last few years.
Since the company set up its business in China in 2016, some 25 million guests have booked stays there through Airbnb.
“The decision was not easy for us and I know that it is even more difficult for you,” Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk said. “We’ve built and grown a thriving host community in China together and have welcomed more than 25 million guest arrivals since 2016.”
The zero-COVID policy has led to China enforcing some of the world’s strictest lockdowns. If even a handful of cases of COVID-19 are reported in a region of the country, then lockdowns are implemented. Mass testing occurs regularly in large cities like Beijing or Shanghai, and roads are often blocked to keep people from traveling.
Last week, World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Mike Ryan made it known he is critical of the zero-COVID policy, calling it “unsustainable.”
“We understand why the initial response of China was to try and suppress infections to the maximum level (but) that strategy is not sustainable and other elements of the strategic response needs to be amplified,” he said.
Airbnb joins a growing list of Western corporations to cease domestic operations in mainland China. LinkedIn and Yahoo have withdrawn their businesses from the country; almost all major Western Internet platforms, including Google and Facebook, have ceased to provide services in mainland China, citing reasons ranging from censorship to operation difficulties.