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Airbnb cancels sleepover on Great Wall of China after backlash

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 09/08/2018 Sophie Williams

a train is coming down the mountain © Provided by Independent Print Limited Airbnb has been forced to cancel a scheduled "sleep on the Great Wall of China" competition after it angered authorities in Beijing. 

Last week the company, which allows people to rent out their homes, offered customers the chance to take part in the "first ever sleepover" on the Great Wall of China.

It promised to transform an old watchtower into the ultimate luxury "one of a kind" accommodation. The company also promised a multi-course gourmet dinner to guests.

The competition drew strict criticism from many people in China, concerned that the eighth wonder was being used as a gimmick forcing authorities to take action.

Airbnb said it "deeply respects" the feedback received and had decided not to move forward with the event.

On Weibo, one user wrote: "If you really want to eat and drink on the Great Wall for one night, are you not afraid of polluting the environment? I'm afraid it's a gimmick, just an advertisement."

a view of a stone building: airbnbgreatwallchinastay0208h.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited airbnbgreatwallchinastay0208h.jpg While another said: "The Great Wall is Chinese, not a company or an individual. We work together to protect the Great Wall."

The Beijing Yanqing Cultural Department was forced to release a statement on its official Weibo page.

The department claims that they had not received a request from Airbnb to hold the event and that it did not comply with the cultural relics protection in force on the Great Wall.

It added: "We are grateful to the general public and online users for their concern and support for the protection of the Great Wall. We welcome everyone to supervise the protection of the Great Wall. We will continue to protect and strictly manage all kinds of cultural relics in the region in strict accordance with the law."

a view of a city: greatwallchina1808A.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited greatwallchina1808A.jpg The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is much-loved in China. 

In a statement Airbnb said: "We were excited to promote the Great Wall and Chinese cultural heritage with our Night At The Great Wall and while there was an agreement in place that was the basis for the announcement of this event, we deeply respect the feedback we have received.

"We have made the decision to not move forward with this event and instead we are working on a range of other experiences and initiatives that showcase China as a destination and highlight how people-to-people travel can drive human connections."

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According to Quartz, the company's relationship with China is relatively complicated due to competition from local rivals and regulatory issues regarding rules regarding foreign visitors to the country. Visitors are required to hand in their information to the local police station making staying in someone else's apartment complicated.

In an attempt to appeal to China, the company took on a Chinese name and promised to provide foreign passport information to local authorities.

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