No Airbnb on the Great Wall, like no Starbucks in the Forbidden City

By Silvi writer

US home-sharing platform Airbnb has suspended a plan to provide lodging on the Badaling Great Wall in Beijing amid concerns that it could damage the ancient structure, China Daily reported.

The company said on Aug 7 that it will not move forward with the original plan out of respect for public opinion, though the event, known as Night at the Great Wall, had been given a nod by relevant parties.

It’s the second time that a western brand to decide to pulled out from China’s heritage site. Starbucks, the world’s leading café chain, closed its store in the Forbidden City in Beijing in 2007 amid public anger in China.

Airbnb said it does not want to distract from the goal of enhancing “human connections”, but didn’t say if the event will be held somewhere else nearby.

But the cultural commission in Beijing’s Yanqing district, which oversees the Badaling Great Wall, released a statement on Aug 6 saying it was not aware of the event and no approval had been given. It said it does not support such activities as they don’t help conserve cultural heritage.

The event caused an uproar after Chinese netizens voiced concerns about potential damage to the ancient military fortification.

NRQGBWKThe company first revealed the event on its website on Aug 2. It offered overnight lodging in September for one Airbnb user and a companion in a “room” transformed from a torch tower on the Badaling Great Wall. The room would be equipped with a bathroom, the company said.

The company has held similar activities in a number of countries, including on a reef in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and the Dracula Castle in Romania.


Starbucks left the Forbidden City

In July 2007, Starbucks closed its store in Beijing’s Forbidden City after months of controversy over the US coffee-shop chain doing business there.

The decision followed the Forbidden City’s announcement that it wants to operate all stores inside the former imperial palace, which is now a museum.

starbucks_in_the_forbiddencity“[W]e have respectfully decided to end our lease agreement,” the Seattle coffee chain said.

In 2006, Chinese TV personality Rui Chenggang, now a prisoner, began a crusade against the store, saying it marred the solemnity of the Forbidden City and undermined Chinese culture.

Word of his campaign, which he waged primarily on a blog, became front-page news in China in January and rapidly spread around the world. Thousands of people responded on Rui’s blog, many calling for Starbucks to leave the historic site.

But only two months after Starbucks left, a coffee shop, which claimed to be managed by the Palace Museum, opened at the heart of the Forbidden City.


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