Airbnb eyes China growth with a deal that reaches out to Chinese tourists

Airbnb eyes China growth with a deal that reaches out to Chinese tourists

There are already listings on Airbnb for properties in Chinese cities, but the site doesn’t have an official presence in China. This means that there haven’t been any marketing efforts, people on the ground to speak with regulators, or a stringent quality check of the places that are posted up on Airbnb.

That marketing bit is going to change for sure. Airbnb quietly inked a partnership with Alibaba-backed outbound travel site Qyer late last week, and the cooperation initiatives outlined include online and offline activities, joint marketing efforts, and exhibitions to promote tourism destinations.

Airbnb’s head of global operations, Varsha Rao, said in a statement: “Airbnb is committed to creating a unique travel experience, and we can do so by linking up Chinese tourists to overseas home owners for an unforgettable holiday. In this respect, Qyer is aligned with us.”

As Qyer is an outbound travel site, it would appear that the aim is to get Chinese travelers to first recognize Airbnb as a legit accommodation resource when they go overseas, and eventually build up trust and a relationship that would see more listings from China surfacing on the site. That is probably when Airbnb will go all out to engage the budding community and build up even more users.

This move also ties in with Airbnb’s shifting focus on connecting tourists with locals at the destination — going beyond just facilitating accommodation. A new feature called “Local Companion” has been in testing in San Francisco over the past few weeks, but only for people invited to a private beta. It appears in the Airbnb inbox for iOS and allows you to ask any questions, like a concierge service, but with people who live at your holiday destination instead.

It seems like Airbnb has picked the right partner as it strives to build its brand in China. Qyer was founded in 2004 and reaches about 40,000 destinations overseas. It provides various travel-related services including airticket booking, hotel reservation and visa arrangements. The site currently has about 10 million users, with those on mobile numbering about 5 million. In July last year, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba invested an undisclosed amount in Qyer, seeking to boost its travel offerings on marketplace site Taobao.

Headline image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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