Airbnb is planning to quadruple its engineering team in China, hoping to tap into the country’s young and travel-hungry demographic, reports Bloomberg.
The world’s fourth largest startup in 2017 is showing no signs of slowing down its expansion in China. After appointing a Chinese chief, Hong Ge, to run operations in the world’s second largest economy, Airbnb now plans to ramp up its investment by expanding the team in China from 25 to over 100 engineers.
“The most important thing is that we have an engineering team on the ground and local people in charge of the China business,” Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, told Bloomberg.
“They understand their country the best. Even though we are a global technology platform, they have the technical ability to go and change things,” he said.
Airbnb is facing fierce competition in China as local major players such as Tujia and Xiaozhu have already secured solid ground in the market. Tujia offers lodging in 335 cities domestically and 450,000 rooms in 67 countries, according to Nikkei Asian Review. Xiaozhu also boasts 200,000 properties in more than 300 cities. Although Airbnb has 3 million global listings, it currently has only 100,000 homes in China—way behind those local leaders in the sector.
“Some might say we got off to a slow start in China, but if you look at how we’ve grown, it demonstrates a strong organic traction that I think is going to benefit us in the long term,” said Blecharczyk to Bloomberg.
This is definitely a smart move for Airbnb. China’s online short-term rental market brings in RMB 8.8 million annually (in Chinese), says iResearch, and is estimated to reach RMB 17 billion by 2018. Airbnb was off to a great start last year with nearly 1.6 million Chinese tourists using Airbnb in overseas trips in 2016, up 142 percent from the previous year.