While it may have arrived a bit late to the party, worldwide home-sharing startup Airbnb is hoping to finally take off in China, redoubling its efforts inside the country and taking on a brand new Chinese name: 爱彼迎 (Àibǐyíng).
The company’s CEO Brian Chesky announced the rebranding earlier today, explaining that the new moniker means “to welcome each other with love.”
Airbnb is committed to succeeding in China, and we now have a Chinese name, 爱彼迎 (Aibiying), which means "to welcome each other with love."
— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) March 22, 2017
But, on Twitter, netizens aren’t exactly feeling the love:
— 丁一 (@dingyi) March 22, 2017
@bchesky As a Chinese, I want to say it's a terrible name. Nobody wants to say it out, cause it means nothing and pronounces weird.
— Brian Green 吕国浩 (@haospot) March 22, 2017
— 菜花 (@lerrvlau) March 22, 2017
— AndieChu (@andiechu) March 22, 2017
The company’s Weibo followers aren’t thrilled about the name either with many netizens commenting that it “sounds unpleasant,” and suggesting that whoever thought it up ought to be fired.
In addition to the new name, Airbnb is tripling its Chinese workforce (from 60 to 180), and doubling its investment in the country in an attempt to appeal to young Chinese travelers looking to broaden their horizons.
However, the problem with Airbnb’s strategy is that it may have come too late. After all, China already has its own Airbnb called Tujia which is deeply entrenched in the country. According to CNN, Tujia has over 430,000 listings across 312 Chinese cities, compared to Airbnb’s 80,000 Chinese properties. Tujia is also better at marketing to Chinese customers, who prefer to travel as a family, by offering larger home listings that include cleaning services.
Uber faced a similar problem in trying to conquer the Chinese ride-hailing market. After losing $1 billion a year in China, the company finally decided to throw in the towel last year, selling its business in the country to its Chinese clone.
But with so many potential travelers at stake, Airbnb is at least going to give it a shot. Already the company provides 24/7 customer support in Mandarin and has partnered with local payment methods like Alipay and WeChat to help make things easier for Chinese customers.
In Shanghai, it has also introduced its Trips program, which allows travelers to take unique excursions with locals to experience local culture. For travelers in Shanghai, this means learning about dough figurines and going behind-the-scenes at a traditional Kun Opera.
Airbnb’s Aibiying’s rebranding video below:
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat