Airbnb’s exit from China is inevitable

The epidemic hit the tourism industry hard and took away a global homestay giant.

After entering China for more than 6 years, on the morning of May 24, Airbnb issued a letter to Chinese users, which mentioned:

Airbnb China announced the latest business adjustment. We will strengthen our capital and provide full services for outbound travel. At the same time, from July 30, 2022, we will suspend support for domestic travel listings, experiences and related bookings.

That is to say, Airbnb will completely remove the listing and experience business in China, and only keep the outbound business.

Airbnb China's biggest problem is acclimatization

As an online short-term rental service company, Airbnb's philosophy is to "rent a home from an individual, not a hotel."

Airbnb was established in August 2008, and officially announced its entry into China in August 2015. At the end of March 2017, the Chinese name of the brand and product "Airbnb" was set, which means "let love meet each other".

▲ Picture from: REUTERS

As for the reason for this withdrawal, Airbnb co-founder and China chairman Bo Siqi said , "In the face of the challenge of the epidemic, we have reconsidered and made this difficult decision."

The repeated epidemic is the last straw. It weakens the synergy between Airbnb's domestic travel business and outbound travel business , and the domestic travel business faces operational challenges such as high costs. But Airbnb's decline in China is not just because of the epidemic.

In recent years, China’s domestic listings and experience business accounted for less than 1% of Airbnb’s global revenue.

The main problem is that it is not acclimatized to the soil and water, or that it is not localized enough, which is reflected in the operation ideas and customer service communication.

Speaking of which, my colleagues are about to come forward and speak out.

Sage once had a trip to Huizhou and booked a room on Airbnb, only to find out when he arrived at the high-speed rail station that the landlord’s phone number could not be reached, and the address he had left was incomplete. “I don’t know where that place is at all.”

Even if you make five or six phone calls in the summer heat, you can't help but get angry, let alone repeat the situation every time you make a call. The attitude of each customer service on the other end of the phone was very good, and they kept saying "try to solve it", but the purpose of refunding was never achieved. In the end, the customer service in Singapore took the initiative to call, but they just repeatedly checked the situation and said "it is impossible to solve it on the same day." .

I don't know what the situation is from the beginning to the end, the refund is just a result. At the time, I thought it might be an exception. I was unlucky to encounter fake listings and junk landlords, but this way of solving the problem is the problem of the entire platform.

On the black cat complaint, Airbnb has more than 8,700 complaints, most of which are related to cancellations and changes, such as "I had to cancel the order due to the itinerary, but the result is not refundable. The landlord asked me to consult the platform, but it is useless to consult the platform. The landlord will not refund the refund"; "The landlord refuses to refund according to the terms, and the fee will be deducted in the case of no-show".

And my colleague Xiao Wang also encountered a long process of communicating with customer service.

Last year, his Airbnb account couldn't be used normally due to not logging in for too long or for other reasons. The customer service call was transferred several times, and it was said that it would be resolved in one to two weeks. But because of the tight check-in time, he could only book the room by borrowing another account. A month later, he finally received an email explaining that the account was back to normal. "After all, it's been a long time, and I don't use this account anymore."

Due to personal usage habits, Xiao Wang believes that Airbnb's app is not convenient enough:

When I want to live in a specific area, if it is a public comment, I can directly filter by distance, and it is accurate to the meter. I can clearly know whether I like this location. However, Airbnb may not disclose the exact address to the user before placing an order on the one hand for privacy reasons, and on the other hand, due to product design reasons, after choosing to view by distance, the recommended properties do not all meet my requirements. It was even far away from the point I initially chose.

In addition, there were also housing destruction incidents that made landlords tremble in the early years, such as the "students destroying houses" incident and the "destroying houses" incident of 12 tenants. At that time, the reporter investigated that "Airbnb, as a rental platform, does not have strict management. There is no real-name authentication system, and the deposit system is useless, and more depends on personal integrity to maintain.”

What is the cause of frequent problems?

▲ Picture from: iiMedia Research Consulting

Airbnb mainly focuses on the C2C model, where the landlord and the guest directly connect, and Airbnb only acts as an intermediary; while domestic platforms such as “Tujia” mainly focus on the B2C model as the “second landlord”, renting other people’s houses and then renting them out to the tenants.

According to the analysis of Tiger Sniff's "Crow Mounted Police" , the hidden danger of the C2C model is that Airbnb's profits mainly come from intermediary fees. This is why many Chinese C2C companies spend a lot of manpower and financial resources to build the underlying service chain.

However, the actual experience mentioned above shows that the underlying service chain of Airbnb in China has not been well established. In contrast, Tujia, Xiaozhu, etc. will provide landlords with standardized services similar to apartments and hotels , such as room cleaning and linen washing.

There are too many competitors, and the "experience" advantage cannot be reflected

Then again, the positioning of Airbnb in the short-term rental industry is different from that of platforms such as Tujia and Xiaozhu. This is also written in its mission:

Create a world that brings travelers a sense of belonging, and wherever people go, they can connect with the local culture for a one-of-a-kind travel experience.

In November 2016, Airbnb announced the expansion of its sharing business, launching “experience” products in addition to “room listings”, and these “experience” products, like “room listings”, were self-published by local residents. The "experience" is not an ordinary sightseeing tour or course, but immerses the visitor in a unique world created by the local residents.

From the very beginning of renting sofas and spare beds, experience, sharing and communication are the ideals of the sharing economy, but they are still tepid in China.

The Financial Times reported that although Airbnb has always been popular with Chinese tourists going overseas, domestic tourists are more inclined to local Chinese companies, and "China has not embraced Airbnb."

OTA analyst Zhou Haitao holds a similar opinion , "In the domestic homestay booking industry, Ctrip's Tujia, Meituan's Meituan Homestay, Ali's Xiaozhu, and Muniao are in the first echelon. Airbnb's traffic and The number of orders is not low, and its main business is outbound travel—for example, most foreigners choose Airbnb when they travel to China.”

Scale and quantity can also explain the problem sideways.

In the past 10 years, domestic shared accommodation platforms such as Tujia, Xiaozhu, and Ant have competed against Airbnb’s shared accommodation model.

Among them, in 2016, after Tujia successively integrated the short-term rental business of Ant Short-term Rental, Ctrip, Qunar and other platforms, it gained an absolute advantage in housing resources . In December 2020, Tujia's domestic online listings had exceeded 2.3 million units .

There are far fewer domestic listings on Airbnb. Airbnb has roughly half a million active listings in China , compared to more than 6 million active listings globally.

In addition, the popularity of Airbnb in China is not as high as that of Meituan B&B. The latter, as a super application, often has much lower customer acquisition costs than the former. The New York Times reported that the “super app” charges lower fees and an average nightly room rate.

One code is one code, Airbnb is not capable of local operation, it still represents our vision for homestay experience, which is the other side of the C2C model.

Although Sage was badly hurt by the Huizhou trip, she felt that under normal circumstances, many of Airbnb's hardware facilities are comparable to five-star hotels:

Hotels are always stable, and Airbnb B&Bs are more interesting, some come with Zo Malone toiletries, Dyson hair dryers and projectors, and some allow pets to live together, but the price is not so high.

Airbnb's "superhosts" are also more credible, and they can often provide very human services, sharing where there is delicious food in the local area, where it is more convenient to take out the garbage, and where to exercise… Weibo user He He is because once "stay well, People are also good” travel experience, and fell in love with Hangzhou from then on.

For Sage, the difference between hotels and Airbnb homestays is that the former is for business and the surrounding business districts gather, while Airbnb "makes people feel like living in this city and experiencing local life without filters."

Focus on outbound travel and tell personalized stories

In short, Airbnb is not a leading player in the domestic short-term rental industry, and there is not much room left for Airbnb in the market. For practical reasons, giving up is also expected.

Outbound travel is a bigger opportunity. The overlap between Airbnb's overseas and domestic operations is not strong, CNBC reported .

Airbnb's future team in China will be mainly composed of engineers involved in the research and development of global products and technology projects, business and customer service teams responsible for Airbnb's Chinese users' outbound travel, and an office with hundreds of employees will be set up in Beijing.

The main advantage of Airbnb, again, is its listings and experiences all over the world.

Some time ago, Airbnb ushered in the "biggest update in ten years" , one of which is classified search, divided into more than 50 categories, not only regular operations such as country houses and lakesides, but also more personalized ones such as vineyards and historical buildings. choose. Airbnb stated:

“Guests can easily explore more than 20,000 listings with characterful exteriors and beautiful interiors, including masterpieces by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.”

Personalized accommodation experience is still the story Airbnb wants to tell; quality, uniqueness, and experience are the key words that Airbnb wants to emphasize.

It was the same in the country before. In November 2018, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Airbnb reached a strategic cooperation, including brand building, giant panda culture promotion , etc.; "Experience ancient village life" activity .

However, the brand image that Airbnb hopes to achieve is not the same as the actual performance in China.

Zhihu user @李青元 pointed out , "Airbnb is still somewhat biased towards foreign thinking, mainly for students and mid-to-high-end users. In addition to students and mid-to-high-end users, there are also a large group of ordinary people who book homestays that can support Meituan and Tujia. Residents like booking a hotel".

Authentic, niche, and original homestays and travel experiences are still what we look forward to, but domestic homestay stories are no longer written by Airbnb.

Li Ruoqiuhuang, to exorcise evil. Working email: [email protected]

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