Airbnb changes its name to Aibiying and wheels out new features to win over China

 
Lian Parsons
GERMANY-ECONOMY-PROPERTY-INTERNET-TOURISM
The firm is also doubling investment in China (Source: Getty)

China’s Airbnb has received a spiffy new name, Aibiying, unveiled today.

Aibiying translates to “welcome each other with love,” and is meant to be easier to pronounce for Chinese travellers than the English name.

The company’s staff in China is expected to triple this year, jumping from 60 employees to 180 and investments will be doubled.

Read more: Airbnb valued at $30bn after China's sovereign wealth fund invests $100m

Other updates soon to be rolled out include an advertising campaign and new guided tour programmes in Shanghai like a backstage tour of a traditional opera and learning about ancient folk art. This feature debuted last year and already may pose a challenge to other travel services.

Airbnb is also offering local payment methods like Alipay and WeChat Pay to make it easier for travellers within their own country.

China has more international tourists than any other country and Chinese tourists travelling overseas have more than doubled last year on Airbnb, increasing 500 per cent in 2015 and 142 per cent in 2016. Chinese tourists have stayed in accommodations through Airbnb more than 5.3m times since the company was founded about a decade ago.

At 80 per cent under the age of 35, Chinese users also hold the highest proportion of that demographic than any other country.

Airbnb hopes to tap into these young, millennial travellers, Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky said.

“There’s a whole new generation of Chinese travellers who want to see the world in a different way,” he said. “We hope that Aibiying and our Trips product strikes a chord with them and inspires them to want to travel in a way that opens doors to new people, communities and neighbourhoods across the world.”

Read more: Six legal snags to watch out for if you're an Airbnb host

The country already has two similar accommodation listing services, Tujia and Xiaozhu. Airbnb currently has about 80,000 listings in China growing at more than 160 per cent year-on-year, while Tujia has more than 450,000 listings and Xiaozhu has 100,000. AirBnb was in talks last year with the latter company about potential acquisition, but it never came to fruition.

Airbnb has signed formal agreements with multiple cities like Shenzhen, Chongqing and Guangzhou. Chinese investors include China Investment Corporation announced earlier this month and Hillhouse Capital based in Hong Kong, which invested in Airbnb two years ago to spur its growth.

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