Airbnb is boosting its market investments in China

On June 28th, Airbnb jointly launched with Alipay a handy new tool available in the Alipay app called the “Aibiying Travel Deposit”, which will help prevent the app users from reckless spending.

By setting the travel location, period of stay, the number of travelers and the intended travel dates in the app, the system will automatically calculate the total cost of the trip, as well as the sum of money reserved at the daily average. After setting up the Travel Deposit, the system will transfer money periodically from the user’s regular Alipay account into the Yu’E Bao account (similar to an in-app account for savings). The money will be frozen in the Yu’E Bao, and can only be accessed or transferred once the user has reached to the targeting amount of money. Users can view their Travel Deposit in the app at any time.

But compared to other app features, Travel Deposit is more like a joint marketing strategy of Alipay and Airbnb. If taken as a real tool for savings, one may find there is still a lot of space for improvement. For instance, if the travel plan is to go to Thailand for China’s National Holiday in October, it would clearly cost more than 5,950 yuan for the trip–although you can input a customized amount. Additionally, it may not be reasonable for a travel plan just six months in advance, taking into account booking air tickets and hotels.

In fact, becoming partners with Alipay is only one part of Airbnb’s marketing campaign in China this year. The first step is giving their brand a Chinese name—爱彼迎 Aibiying (lit. “welcome each other with love”), followed by introducing their advertising campaign of “Love makes traveling fascinating” and then the commercial shoot with Eddie Peng, a Canadian-Taiwanese actor popular across the country, which goes viral on social media.

China is the only market, aside from the United States, where Airbnb designed large-scale, specific marketing projects. It is challenging for the company to translate their US promotional activities directly into the Chinese market due to not only the difference in market scales, but also the difference in cultural environments.

Prior to this, Airbnb’s Chinese market team consisted of only three people. As Chen Muru, the current marketing director, joined last August, the staff of the marketing team has now tripled. Chen claims that they have made major “marketing investments” recently.

The name Aibiying was thought up by a brand consulting firm and took roughly three months before the company settled with it. There were also reports on the release of the name before, however Airbnb’s market feedback then weren’t exactly ideal.

Aibiying’s localization features granted access via WeChat, allowed payment through Alipay, provided customer service in Chinese, and established strategic cooperative relations with the four cities: Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing, and Guangzhou.

In Chen’s opinion, Aibiying will go through a long process of development. Rome wasn’t built in a day. He says that, “Upon the announcement of the new brand name, we received a lot of criticisms. Thus, it will definitely take more work to establish the Airbnb brand.”

Although the goal of the whole marketing campaign this time is to attract more new users, there are other more practical business implications behind. Airbnb currently has about 80,000 participating housing options in China and housed over 1.6 million domestic and foreign visitors. Vice versa, the international Airbnb has accommodated more than 5.3 million Chinese tourists worldwide. But compared with a large market like China, the numbers appear rather low.

According to IResearch Consulting Group’s analysis (a consulting firm in China), compared to local enterprises such as Xiaozhu or Piggy Short-term Accommodation and Tujia, Aibiying is still at a stage of “testing the waters”, mainly to encourage Chinese users to live in overseas housing. This is also evident from Aibiying’s advertising content consisting of multiple overseas locations such as London, Chiang Mai, Tokyo, etc.

“Because we are promoting a new model for traveling. If you are planning to live in a stranger’s home, you’ll need courage, and a little more faith and trust in others.” Chen explains.

In addition to “Love makes traveling fascinating” commercials, Airbnb also collaborated with Yoho magazine. Yoho shot and produced three additional short films for Airbnb, which were starred by Xi Mengyao and other Chinese stars. These commercials are all released in the form of online video streaming, coupled with outdoor advertisements and those in WeChat. The short films are distributed mainly in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Shenzhen, as well as in Tianjin, Hangzhou, and other tourist cities.


This article by Kailin Zhu originally appeared in Qdaily and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.