Airbnb is ramping up its investment in China, quadrupling its engineering team over the next 12 months to focus on affluent millennials who are increasingly exploring the world's second-largest economy.
Airbnb will grow its technical cohort to more than 100 in Beijing - the only office outside the United States where the home-sharing giant employs an engineering division, according to co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk. That move, part of a previously announced doubling in investment and tripling in local workers to 300, will help it tailor a relaunched service for some 400 million younger people acquiring a taste for independent travel, he added.
"The most important thing is that we have an engineering team on the ground and local people in charge of the China business," Mr Blecharczyk, Airbnb's chief strategy officer, said in an interview yesterday. "They understand their country the best. Even though we are a global technology platform, they have the technical ability to go and change things."
After years of feeling out the market, the world's fourth-largest start-up this year appointed a Chinese chief and declared its intention to take on domestic market leaders such as Tujia and Xiaozhu.
The company, which counts China's sovereign wealth fund among its investors, is wooing a young middle-class by adopting the moniker "Aibiying" (welcome each other with love), integrating local payment options and providing 24/7 customer support in Mandarin.
But it is adopting a strategy it deems more sustainable than local rivals that are raising "unreal" amounts of cash and burning it quickly to drive growth "artificially", Mr Blecharczyk said.
The most important thing is that we have an engineering team on the ground and local people in charge of the China business. They understand their country the best. Even though we are a global technology platform, they have the technical ability to go and change things.
MR NATHAN BLECHARCZYK, Airbnb's chief strategy officer, on the move to grow the technical cohort and local workers in China.
Domestic travel within China now accounts for almost half of its business there, he said. It currently lists 100,000 homes, still well behind sector leaders such as Tujia. Airbnb, however, has handled more than 5.3 million guest arrivals by Chinese travellers at its listings around the world. Outbound travel from China - the world's biggest source of international tourists - grew 142 per cent last year.