In this post: we look at how Airbnb copycats in China have taken the Airbnb template and innovated to win in the local Chinese market.

The impact of Airbnb in China and Airbnb’s late arrival

Airbnb created a massive impact in the hospitality market in 2008. Within a couple of years of launching, it had raised a lot of money and was listing more properties each week at a rapid pace.

However, it didn’t focus on China for a long time. It was in 2016 when Airbnb opened its offices in China and started its operations. Eight years after it had conquered the American and European markets.

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Eight years is a lot of time for Chinese entrepreneurs to study the impact of Airbnb and replicate the same in their own country. Truth be told, by the time Airbnb came to China – 2016 – many so called “copycats” had already emerged and had taken a large share of the Chinese short term rental market.

Airbnb’s Chinese competitors – Xiaozhu and Zhu Bai Jia

Online platforms such as Xiaozhu and Zhu Bai Jia are big hits in China. These companies had a tougher barrier to pass – when compared to what Airbnb faced when it launched in San Francisco.

Zhu Bai Jia

You see, unlike the US or Europe, China isn’t accustomed with opening doors to strangers and letting them stay for a short duration. Xiaozhu and Zhu Bai Jia had to literally change Chinese culture to create a short term rental industry.

Zhou Yichang is a Chinese entrepreneur. He lives in a big city and works for Xiaozhu as a Customer Manager. His job is to visit homes listed on the site and help them with things ranging from clicking great pictures of properties, reviewing amenities and helping owners buy the right stuff to make guest stay a lot easier.


Many times, Zhou handholds hosts with helping them to grow and earn more money. Airbnb hasn’t got anything like this in its markets. Imagine the resources required to assign a Home Manager to each and every property listed on its platform. But, with sheer hard work and innovation, Xiaozhu have cracked the code. Bridging between hosts and guests and creating a robust vacation rental economy.

What did the Chinese platforms do to win

China was always considered as the copycat factory of the world. Observe what western companies do, and replicate the products and services for the local market. China is not a copycat anymore. In fact, today, we see more western brands copying ideas from Chinese service providers.

Learn from Airbnb and boost your short term rental platform

While these vacation rental platforms borrowed Airbnb’s template, they also innovated, introducing services that Airbnb would later mirror.

Zhu Bai Jia, a Shenzhen-based start-up founded in 2012, focuses on providing outbound Chinese tourists with short-term home rentals in some 70 countries. Besides assisting travellers looking for a home away from home, Zhu Bai Jia helps them plan entire trips, using hosts that also serve as part-time tour guides. Airbnb launched a similar service only last year.

The company’s spokesperson told South China Morning Post that – “When Airbnb launched ‘Airbnb Trips’ last year, we laughed. The joke in our sector is that ‘China used to copy Silicon Valley, but now it is Silicon Valley that copies China.’”

What’s the lesson – contextual service delivery

The lesson for entrepreneurs who wish to launch short term rental platforms, such as an Airbnb clone is this – no matter how similar looking  your platform is to Airbnb, certain services will have to modified to suit the market you are serving in. This is called contextual business delivery.

Airbnb home page – Rentcubo

Not only local culture, many times local regulations push businesses to the limit. And businesses have to adapt or die. New age short term rentals are disrupting the Asian hospitality markets today. Make yours count by delivering the best services suited to your market.

How much does it cost to build a clone script from scratch

A robust, modern day clone script needs to be built on the latest technology stack. And add to it the resources you need to design, build, test, and launch the platform. In today’s demanding market, where it is a challenge to hire experienced developers, it will cost you anywhere close to USD 60,000 to develop an Airbnb clone script from scratch.

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Ping us on WhatsApp with any query – we are available anytime and are more than happy to help you. At Rentcubo – everything we do, begins with you.