Airbnb has appointed Hong Ge as vice president of its China operations as it looks to accelerate growth in the market.
Hong, who previously headed up engineering for Airbnb China and held engineering roles at Facebook and Google, will be responsible for all China initiatives and will report to CEO Brian Chesky.
His appointment comes as the brand doubles its investment in the China market and plans to triple the size of its local team following a major marketing push in March.
It also follows the brand’s controversial launch of its Chinese name Aibiying 爱彼迎, which translates as ‘welcome each other with love’. The name was met with criticism by Chinese netizens with many believing the name sounds old fashioned and does not connect to the brand.
Hong will be in the hot seat as Airbnb moves to gain ground on its local competition as it overcomes the brand’s lack of awareness in China, where home-sharing has not yet taken off.
While Airbnb has approximately 80,000 listings in China and has seen nearly 1.6 million guest arrivals at listings within China, it lags well behind the home-grown competition.
The market leader Tujia claims to have more than 400,000 properties, plus it also owns a low-cost rental platform Mayi which has an additional 30,000 listings. Tujia is also backed by China’s largest online travel agent C-trip.
Airbnb is targeting millennials to help grow the brand as more than 80% of its Chinese users are aged under 35, which is more than any other country.
Research by Airbnb revealed 93% of Chinese millennials believe the best way to learn about a place is to live like locals, while 94% want a unique travel experience.