Airbnb China will have a new head of operations: Tao Peng, a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of CityHome, a short-term rental platform based in China, as well as BreadTrip/CityHunter, a travel recommendations and sharing app.
Peng will assume the role of president in September. Just last week, Airbnb China announced it has invested $5 million in Peng’s Beijing-based CityHome platform.
It’s not yet clear exactly how Airbnb China will integrate CityHome, but the appointment of Peng to the role of president suggests both entities will work very closely with one another.
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Airbnb’s Chinese business unit, also known as Aibiying, has been in search of a new president since its former president, Hong Ge, was ousted after it was revealed he was having a relationship with an employee.
Shortly following Ge’s departure, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk was named chairman of Airbnb China. Blecharczyk will remain as chairman and will work closely with Peng.
“We heard from a wide range of individuals who were interested in this role, but from the very beginning, we wanted an entrepreneur who is deeply motivated by our mission, has demonstrated an ability to build a business and innovate, and is rooted in China,” Blecharczyk said of Peng in a statement. “We have achieved incredible success, but we are still in the very early days of Airbnb China. To succeed, we need an entrepreneur who knows China and is supported by a team of experts so that we can move fast and execute at the highest level. Tao is an exceptional leader and I can’t think of anyone better suited for this role.”
For Airbnb, growing its business in China is a top priority, and the company has taken strategic steps to do so, focusing on both quality and quantity of listings. Airbnb’s $5 million investment in CityHome is one of the first major investments the company has actually made in China.
Previous rumors have pointed toward Airbnb possibly investing in other homesharing platforms. In November 2016, reports swirled that Airbnb might purchase Alibaba-backed Xiaozhu. And earlier this year, it was reported that Airbnb nearly merged with its biggest Chinese-based rival, Tujia in January 2017.
That deal, however, fell through, when Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky had a change of heart. Investors were reportedly disappointed with the outcome, and hoped that if the two companies merged, it would prevent a war of attrition from taking place among China’s numerous short-term rental players.
Tujia CFO Warren Wang told Bloomberg in May 2018 that he still hoped the two companies could come to some sort of agreement to merge.
Airbnb’s Chinese rivals have continued to thrive. In November 2017, Xiaozhu received $120 million in funding. And Ctrip- and Expedia-backed Tujia could go public as soon as 2019. At the same time, Airbnb China has also continued to grow, with a total of 200,000 listings, up 125 percent from the previous year.
It remains to be seen what next steps Airbnb China will make in the pursuit of growth, but if Peng’s statement is any indication, it’s clear we may see more potential mergers and acquisitions: “[I] look forward to working with [the Airbnb China team] as we continue to make aggressive investments in China, support hosts, help Chinese travelers and ensure more guests can visit this amazing country.”