Airbnb on its controversial Chinese name: “We’d be surprised if there wasn’t some debate”

Airbnb defends its choice of Chinese name / Airbnb

Airbnb made a major statement of intent for China last week when it launched its brand with a localised Chinese name ‘Aibiying’.

The name is intended to mean ‘welcome each other with love’ but many people on social media sites in China have criticised the name, with many even saying it sounds like Airbnb is selling sex toys, or is in the same line of business as Durex.

Speaking to The Drum, an Airbnb spokesperson defended the move, saying that they were always prepared for some debate around the meaning of the name.

“With every change and new evolution comes discussion and debate, and that’s something that we welcome. There are nearly 1.5 billion people in China, so we’d be surprised if there wasn’t some debate!

“We’re enjoying following the conversations and the various interpretations people have come up with, but we hope that as we continue to grow in China and give people the authentic and unique travel experiences they’re looking for, the meaning and sentiment behind Aibiying will become increasingly clear.

“We’ve worked hard to develop a brand for China that truly encapsulates Airbnb’s ethos and cater to our community there, and we’re really proud of the way Aibiying reflects our mission of belonging,” said the spokesperson.

According to the spokesperson, the decision to create a Chinese name was sparked by the fact that home sharing and Airbnb have very low awareness in the country. It wanted to show recognition of the importance of name meanings, following the likes of Coca Cola, which has a Chinese name that means ‘tasty and happy’.

“We know that China can be a challenging market and those that get it right take localisation seriously. We also know that the Chinese place great importance on the meaning of names and what they say about a brand. Coca Cola is a great example of having a Chinese name that both phonetically sounds like the original, but also means ‘tasty and happy’. In looking for a local name, we wanted something that sounds similar to Airbnb and also reflects the mission of our business - belonging and connecting people from different communities around the world.

“Our new Airbnb brand in China, Aibiying, means welcome each other with love, and we can’t think of a better phrase to sum up what we stand for. In choosing Aibiying, we looked through hundreds of options to find the characters that can truly represent the meaning and mission of Airbnb - belonging. Aibiying is also a call to action which encourages people to think of a new way of traveling, a way that connects them to the people, communities and neighborhoods in the places they visit, and unlocks magical experience,” said the spokesperson.

The name isn’t the only action Airbnb is taking to invest in China, as the company is increasing staff and launching products. According to Airbnb, the key is millennial travellers in and out of China that want to live like locals. The brand said its research shows 93% of Chinese millennials agree that the best way to learn about a place is to live like locals, while 94% say they want a travel experience that is unique to them.

“As well as launching Airbnb Trips in Shanghai – one of the first cities to launch Trips in Asia – we are also tripling the size of our local team in China this year, with a significant proportion being locally-based engineers so that we can continue to adapt our product to suit local needs,” added the spokesperson.

Part of the plans in developing for the future in China is collaborating with industry groups, according to Airbnb. According to a spokesperson, the brand has joined the Sharing Economy Committee of the Internet Society of China, as part of its efforts to educate about home sharing and its impact on tourism.

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