Airbnb cancels Great Wall sleepover contest after online protests in China

Airbnb, a home rental website that provides holiday rooms on rent or lease to tourists worldwide, has scrapped a contest offering winners a chance to spend a night on the iconic Great Wall of China after the government declined to approve the plan following opposition from netizens.

The website launched the contest last week, inviting users to write about breaking down cultural barriers and building new connections. Four winners were to get a chance to spend the night in a customised bedroom built in an ancient watchtower of the Wall.

"We understand and respect the opinions put forth by the Cultural Commission," the room-booking app provider said in a statement on China's Twitter-like service Weibo yesterday.

The government bureau, which is responsible for the popular Badaling section of the wall, said it had never approved any plans for the project from any organisation.

The Airbnb statement said it had been in talks with "relevant parties" over several months before launching the promotion.

"We have made the decision to not move forward with this event," it said in a separate statement in English yesterday, adding that it had apologised to those who had already entered the competition.

The Cultural Commission declined to comment on the issue.

China introduced a law in 2006 to protect the 2,600-year-old Great Wall, part of which prohibits the building of any structures on it that are not part of an official conservation effort.

Airbnb's plan to convert a watchtower into a bedroom had upset many Chinese netizens.

"The Great Wall is a historic relic How can they let it be turned into a common guest house?" a person wrote on Weibo.

The company said last week that "protecting historical and cultural relics was the original intention of our activity".

The 21000-km-long Great Wall of China is one of the modern seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)