On Wednesday, the peer-to-peer room rentals startup unveiled a new brand name to be used in the country: ‘Aibiying’ (爱彼迎), which means “welcome each other with love.”
The re-naming is part of a larger effort by the company to expand its visibility and presence in China. Airbnb also announced it is launching Trips, a feature that offers suggestions for local experiences, in the country. (Cultural activities such as a detailed tour of Shanghai’s Kun Opera are already available on the platform.)
Like pretty much everyone else in Silicon Valley, Airbnb looks at China and sees a huge opportunity. But the country has proven a tricky market for Western unicorns to conquer. While Airbnb doesn’t have to contend with thorny
censorship issues, it does have to face off against domestic rivals, an established group that includes powerhouses Tujia and Xiaozhu.com. As we’ve seen with Uber, which famously blinked when challenged by local ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing, Chinese competitors shouldn’t be underestimated.
Still, Airbnb is hoping the rebranding will resonate with Chinese travelers, particularly millennials, and accelerate the company’s growth in the country. To date, more than 5.3 million Chinese travelers have booked a room, apartment, or house through Airbnb's platform, which also has more than 80,000 domestic listings. Meanwhile, outbound travel from China grew by 142% last year, according to the company.
“There’s a whole new generation of Chinese travelers who want to see the world in a different way,” CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement.
To support its push into China, Airbnb said it will increase its local workforce from 60 employees to more 180, and double its investment in the market this year.