Airbnb has appointed a current executive to serve as the vice president of its China operations.
Following an extensive search, Airbnb decided to promote from within. Ge served as the engineering head for Airbnb China, and he will now be the top exec in charge of leading the company’s initiatives in China.
“Hong has unparalleled knowledge of our product and what it needs to be in China, combining a deep technical expertise with an understanding of the local market,” Airbnb said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
This is an important role as Airbnb looks to cement its presence abroad—and China has proven a tough market to crack. In March, the company changed its name to Aibiying, which means “welcome each other with love,” in an attempt to woo Chinese customers. But it’ll have to do more than that to win over the world’s second largest economy.
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One of Airbnb’s biggest challenges will be its ability to successfully compete with China’s domestic rivals. Tujia, a Beijing-based online vacation rental service, rents out mini-hotels, matches hosts with travelers, and offers cleaning services. The company is valued at more than $1 billion, and it is reportedly raising an extra $300 million to fund an expansion of its operations.
Airbnb currently has 80,000 listings in China, compared with Tujia’s 430,000, according to CNN Money.
Founded in 2008 as an air mattress bed and breakfast rental platform, Chesky and his team have built Airbnb into a sharing economy behemoth now valued at $31 billion. It is the second most valuable startup after ride-sharing app Uber, which is valued at $69 billion. In February, Airbnb acquired high-end rental company Luxury Retreats for a reported $300 million in cash and stock. It also finalized a deal to buy Tilt, a group payments startup. The recent acquisitions are part of the company’s aggressive global expansion plan.