Airbnb Is Being Copied in China, Any Chance?

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I know, Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb has told the public, “We’re moving into the Asia market”. But it was in July 2010, and months later, nothing really happened. I search for ‘China’ on Airbnb, it gives me only 274 results and most of them seems inactive; I tried the Airbnb service when I was in Austin for SXSW and quite enjoyed the experience, so I wrote about it (in Chinese) and am wondering if we can see some similar services in China. The feedbacks from Chinese readers were extremely good;

A friend was talking to me about the possibility of doing one Airbnb in China last week, and today I just heard that there was a team with over 20 staff has been working on the clone of Airbnb for a while. The interesting part is that the team is actually led by some German entrepreneurs who are related to Groupon as well. I’ve also been told that although it’s going to focus on Chinese market but the target audience are expats in China or foreigners travel to China, which sounds a bit, weird.

We have not seen the product yet, so it’s hard to give any further comment. But, the following points might worth reading, especially for you are interested in Airbnb model:

  1. People goes for Airbnb, for cheap price accommodation. But in China, the cheap and good enough business travel hotels are everywhere only costing you ~$50. So for Airbnb in China, think over your target group;
  2. Most of the feedbacks from the readers of my Chinese post about Airbnb focus on one issue, the credit system (lack thereof). Is the online banking system easy to use, secure and popular in China, especially in tier-2, tier-3 cities? How can we guarantee the images the host posted are not fake ones? How to convince people to pay in advance before they actually see the rooms? Airbnb sounds risky for Chinese.
  3. How can we prevent the offline deal. Why should I pay Airbnb for the full price instead of paying the host directly (so you might get some discount); for the hosts, why should they pay some commission fee to Airbnb, they may earn more if take cash from the traveller. In China, make sure people would not break the system.
  4. In Airbnb, there is not much social elements. In China, since the price difference might not be the most attractive thing, then make sure you have some ideas feed Chinese, for example, you can somehow tell your customer, e.g. a founder of a startup, that the host is also doing an web startup too so you might want to meet him for some mind-sharing.

In China, there is no such Bed & Breakfast business. But I think there is some chance for Airbnb here still. I am quite looking forward to it.

 

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  • JJ

    I think #2 and #3 are excellent points. Perhaps it’s why this remake is targeted towards foreigner and expats?

    Since they’ll be more accustomed to using credit cards and also it’ll be harder for them to contact the host directly.

    Overall though I’m a little skeptical about this reaching a critical mass among regular Chinese internet users because I feel that most Chinese folks value their privacy a lot more and might not be comfortable with this.

    I do however think that 2nd-rate motels/hotels might try to jump on board :)

  • http://chinaccelerator.com Cyril

    It might all depend on how good the breakfasts are ;)

  • Jessica

    On #4. A friend of mine uses Airbnb in Shanghai and have hosted many tech oriented guests through the service – I think at this moment the service is so young that most of the people (at least in Asia) who have heard of it are tech-related/savvy.

  • robert

    i believe airbnb comes to china as well. they have few guys running around in shanghai and getting expats to list their properties. one of them contacted me lately. not sure though how this service will reach mass in china, once moving from expats into wider chinese landlords and users. this may be a challenge

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  • Eddy