Airbnb’s latest sleepover contest has been canceled by the company following a backlash over the idea.
The contest offered the chance to spend a night on the Great Wall of China and required entrants to write a 500-word essay on overcoming cultural boundaries.
Airbnb’s video (above) promoting the content shows an open-air, candle-lit bedroom inside one of the historic wall’s many watchtowers. The winning package also included air travel to and from Beijing, a lavish dinner, a traditional concert, and a Chinese calligraphy class.
But soon after the contest was announced last week, many people on Chinese social media began to question if Airbnb had really thought it through.
Some were concerned about potential damage to the ancient structure, while others suggested the overnight guests would be devoured by mosquitoes in the open-air setting.
Critics also said it was wrong for a company like Airbnb “to exploit the landmark for advertising and PR purposes,” the BBC reported.
While some local media reports said Airbnb had collaborated with a local tourism company to make the contest possible, others said that the local cultural commission hadn’t given the go-ahead for the sleepover to take place.
After taking another look, Airbnb decided this week to call off the contest. Although it claimed that “there was an agreement in place” for the contest, the San Francisco-based company said it would “deeply respect” the feedback and cancel the event.
It added that it would instead work 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.” It also apologized to those who had taken the time to enter the contest.
The South China Morning Post recently noted that more than 10 million people visit China’s most famous tourist attraction every year, adding that there are no laws stopping visitors from spending the night at the wall, with a number of tour firms even offering camping packages.
Similar contests run by Airbnb in the past have included a sleepover in the Lego House in Denmark, a stay in a cable car nearly 9,000 feet above the ground in France, and a spooky night in “the world’s largest grave,” also in France.
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