Airbnb has canceled its “Night at The Great Wall” sweepstakes following backlash over the contest, which would have granted eight tourists the chance to spend a night inside the historic landmark.
“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,” Airbnb said in an update posted to its site.
The contest, which tasked entrants with writing an essay on breaking down cultural barriers, was met with criticism on Chinese social media shortly after it was announced, the South China Morning Post reported.
“The Great Wall is a historical relic under protection, how can they let it be turned into a common guest house?!” one user reportedly asked, while another accused Airbnb of attempting to profit from the “ancient” site.
The Beijing Yanqing Cultural Commission also voiced its disapproval of the contest, saying it “is not in line with the Great Wall’s heritage conservation values” and that they had never approved the event.
In response to the cultural commission’s concerns, Airbnb took to the Chinese social media platform Weibo to respond.
“We understand and respect the opinions put forth by the Cultural Commission,” they wrote, according to the South China Morning Post.
In its online statement, Airbnb added that the contest was part of its efforts to raise awareness for preservation and to educate people “about the Wall’s heritage.”
"We remain committed to that goal and in the weeks and months ahead, we will be working closely with our hosts and guests in China as well as community leaders to highlight the culture and history that make China one of the most dynamic destinations in the world. China is one of our most important markets, where we have built a number of partnerships with local leaders and organizations to promote sustainable, local and authentic travel to China.”
The company also apologized to anyone who already entered the contest.
“We’re very sorry for any disappointment caused and we will be in touch in the future about other ways you can explore and discover amazing experiences in China.”