China is on track to be Airbnb's top origin market in 2020. Destination marketing organizations targeting Chinese travelers can gain insights from the homesharing giant's take-charge strategy, which is key for staying power in this fiercely competitive sector.
Success in China is integral to Airbnb’s goal of reaching 1 billion guests by 2028. The homesharing platform launched a premium tier of rentals, is complying with Chinese regulations, and created the Airbnb Academy, signaling that it has been earnest and proactive in its China engagement. The function and scale of the company’s operations in China may be beyond the realm of most destination marketing organizations (DMOs), but its efforts hold valuable insight for the cultural travel industry.
Airbnb’s China listings have more than doubled since 2017, a reflection of the growing desire among China’s urban population for local travel experiences — 61 percent according to one McKinsey study — and this includes enjoying local culture, food, and people. Airbnb understands this trend with the president of Airbnb China, Tao Peng, citing the importance of localization efforts at the recent East Tech West conference in Guangzhou.
The most overt of these efforts is Airbnb’s China-specific name change to Aibiying — which roughly translates as “love and welcome one another.” But beyond nomenclature, the company has employed Chinese programmers and designers to create a product that suits domestic aesthetic and functional tastes. For destination marketers hoping to deepen connections to the world’s largest travel market, customizing landing pages and the appearance of social media accounts to cater to Chinese preferences is a basic first step.
An equally important aspect is Airbnb’s integration of WeChat Pay and Alipay into its Chinese platform. While western customers prefer to make online payments using credit cards, Airbnb collaborated with the mobile payment giants to ensure the best possible platform for Chinese users. With a 2018 Nielsen study finding 93 percent of Chinese travelers would increase spending if mobile payment became more widely available, Airbnb is well-placed to capitalize on Chinese spending habits unlike many on the international travel circuit.
Just as DMOs compete for the attention and patronage of outbound Chinese travelers, so too Airbnb operates in a crowded marketplace with local players Tujia and Xiaozhu being two Chinese alternatives. To remain competitive, Airbnb must provide services, products, and a platform perfectly suited to the modern Chinese traveler — and international tourist destinations will increasingly have to do likewise.
This story originally appeared on Jing Travel, a Skift content partner.
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Photo credit: In the rural village of Jinjiang, Airbnb and the Guilin Municipal Government Tourism Development Committee partnered on a one-year project that recruited globally renowned designers to redesign local, traditional stilt-style homes as functional homestays. Airbnb