Ge Hong, Airbnb’s global vice president and China president, has resigned. The company said Xiao Jinhong will take the role until a suitable replacement can be found. The news follows an announcement that Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharcwyk would assume the position as China president.
In an interview with Sina Technology, Ge said he needed to “take a break”. He would not offer detailed reasons for departure or his plans. Airbnb said Ge resigned to pursue ‘proper opportunities’.
Ge joined Airbnb in 2016 and was appointed its global vice president in June with full control of all China business. Previously, Ge was Airbnb’s head of Chinese product and technology development and related core business. Before joining Airbnb, Ge was an engineering director at Facebook and developed the company’s “News Feed” business. He worked at Google before joining Facebook.
This September, Ge Hong disclosed in an interview with Sina Technology that in the past year, Airbnb’s China market business – previously dominated by oversea trips – had a boom in domestic booking. The number of bookings generated by domestic trips equaled that of overseas trip. Airbnb has 120,000 available rooms in China and more than 2.5 million people have used them, up by 287 percent year on year.
Ge Hong chose to leave after four months.
The room sharing industry has been slow to develop in the China market. It faces problems with public trust and government supervision. The frequent use of cameras to record guests and incidents of tenants stealing from homeowners was exposed on the Mayi platform in early October. The National Tourism Administration has also stepped in to regulate the room sharing industry, requiring users to obtain licenses from local authorities and meet fire codes. These controls have diminished its popularity.
Airbnb also faced cutthroat domestic competition immediately after launching in China. Xiaozhu, which shares the same consumer-to-consumer model as Airbnb, said it had more than 200,000 rooms in 322 Chinese cities and 100 cities abroad. Tujia, started with a business-to-consumer model and added Mayi, an Airbnb clone that boasted 650,000 rooms in 345 Chinese cities and 1,037 cities abroad. On October 10, Tujia announced a new round of e-financing that brought $300 million to its online platform. It estimated market valuation exceeds $1.5 billion. Luo Jun, Tujia co-founder and CEO, said this round of financing was used to attract quality room supplies in the domestic market and to explore overseas markets.
Airbnb said Blecharczyk will enhance overall services of the company and ensure a direct communication channel between Beijing and Shanghai and the development headquarters. This may enable the team to provide China with more support. Blecharczyk will visit China on a monthly basis and promote Airbnb in China.
Airbnb told Sina Technology the China business will focus on three domains: first, to explore more and better room supplies; second, to help China’s millennials experience the local cultures of Asians neighbors and the world; and third, to collaborate with the government.
Airbnb entered the Chinese market in August 2015 and only settled on its Chinese name this March. Ge’s sudden departure brings more uncertainty to its localization effort.
Head Image: Airbnb cofounder Nathan Blecharcwyk