[UPDATE (08/08)] And indeed Airbnb has canceled the event. Surprise, surprise.
irbnb recently launched a campaign promising to give eight lucky people the chance to spend the night at one of the world’s most iconic pieces of real estate, however, it’s not clear if they cleared the arrangement with the landlord first.
“2,600 years of history. 21,000 kilometers across the Earth. A border that now brings millions together each year to marvel at the one of the greatest architectural feats in human history. What if this world wonder was a place you could call…home?” reads the special listing on Airbnb’s site, offering free stays in a refurbished guard tower on the Badaling stretch of the Great Wall of China.
For a chance at winning a night on the wall, potential guests are asked to submit an essay with the prompt: “Why is it more important now than ever to break down barriers between cultures? How would you want to build new connections?”
The competition ends on August 11th. Four lucky individuals will then each be assigned a night in early September when they and a guest of their choosing can bunk down on the Great Wall. The guard tower has been furnished with a bed, pillows, lights, chairs, and a sofa, however, it will not boast other modern amenities like air-conditioning, wifi, or a roof.
Air travel is included in the package, as well as Chinese visa fees, a multi-course meal, a musical performance, a calligraphy lesson, a guided hike to the tower, and a lesson on conservation awareness.
The stunt has been generating oodles of positive press for Airbnb from international media outlets. However, opinion remains more divided in China where Weibo users have worried about the possible damage that could be done to the centuries-old wall by the guests.
“The Great Wall is a historical relic under protection, how can they let it be turned into a common guest house?!” the South China Morning Post quotes one web user as writing.
In response to this criticism, Airbnb has said that, in fact, the true purpose of its campaign is to promote the protection of historical and cultural relics. “Our entire activity will not move a single nail on the Great Wall,” the company’s Weibo account vowed, adding that it invites Great Wall protection experts to cooperate in the project.
Reportedly, the campaign arose from a collaboration between Airbnb and the state-owned Beijing Badaling Tourism Company. However, it seems that no one thought to inform local officials beforehand.
On Monday evening, the propaganda department of Beijing’s Yanqing district, where the guard tower is located, issued a statement saying that Yanqing’s cultural relics protection office had not received or reviewed any documents from Airbnb regarding this activity. The office added that it does not approve of or support the developing of the Great Wall as a hotel, stating that this kind of activity does not conform with the idea of preserving the ancient world wonder.
It’s not yet clear if this message spells doom for Airbnb’s promotion. Legal or not, many tour companies offer travelers the chance to sleep on the Great Wall. The Badaling section is one of the most refurbished and touristy lengths of the wall and it’s hard to imagine how eight guests could do any damage to a place that already sees millions of visitors each year.