AirBnB has cancelled a competition offering a night’s stay on the Great Wall of China, after heritage officials did not give approval to go ahead with the promotion.
Winners of the competition would have had the chance to stay overnight at the Great Wall next month in a converted watchtower in the Badaling section; a first in history, in one of the most popular sections of the Wall. The winners would also get air travel, dinner, and cultural activities such as a calligraphy class and a concert included in the prize.
Whilst there are no current laws banning overnight stays in general, there was concern from internet users that it would cause damage to the 2,600 year old heritage site and popular tourist destination, which sees more than 10 million visitors a year.
One person shared their thoughts via the social media platform, Weibo: “The Great Wall is a historic relic… how can they let it be turned into a common guest house?”.
The Beijing Yanqing Cultural Commission agreed, saying that was “not in line with the Great Wall’s heritage conservation values”, and therefore not approved. Part of China’s law also prohibits any structures or additions to the site which are not officially contributing to conservation efforts.
In a press release, AirBnB said that the original purpose of the competition was to encourage breaking down cultural barriers, bring attention to the preservation and conservation efforts, and educate on the heritage of the UNESCO site. Last week they also said that “protecting historical and cultural relics was the original intention of our activity”.
With hotel chains like the Marriott starting to ramp up their efforts to complete with AirBnB, it’s no wonder why the room-booking app is diversifying into experiences and unique stays to capture the hearts, loyalty, and interest, of their audience.
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Instead, AirBnB is working "on a range of other experiences and initiatives that showcase China as a destination” and is continuing to expand business there. You can read their full statement here.
Whilst it would have no doubt been an unreal experience, here are a few other unique AirBnB experiences you can try instead.