Remember when Airbnb said you could spend the night on top of the Great Wall of China? Yeah, just kidding. The announcement wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, though the home-sharing company probably wishes it was. Last week Airbnb revealed a new contest where winners would get to spend a night in an open-roof bedroom built into a tower on the Great Wall of China. The experience would include a multi-course meal in the space’s dining area, live music, and a traditional Chinese calligraphy class. The only problem? Airbnb didn’t exactly check with the Great Wall’s caretakers before announcing the contest to the public. According to Chinese media, the cultural commission overseeing the Badaling section of the Great Wall was not aware of the event and hadn’t given its approval. Airbnb has since canceled the contest.
In a statement late Tuesday, Airbnb said, “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.” They added that they are currently working on a range of other experiences designed to highlight China as a destination.
The contest also drew criticism from social media users who believed the transformation of the ancient site into a guesthouse was a show of disrespect. The South China Morning Post reports that one user, on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, posted, “The Great Wall is a historical relic under protection, how can they let it be turned into a common guest house?!” Others actually called into question the comfort and safety of the prospective winners. “With the temperature in Beijing now, I fear you’d die of heat,” said Weibo user Taozi Wei Jiaxin Tang, CNN reports. “And the mosquitoes all over this wild mountain. Oh my god. Forget about it.”
If nothing else, this is a good lesson for Airbnb. Maybe next time, before offering contest winners a free night in the tombs of the Great Pyramid of Giza or a swim through the pool of the Taj Mahal, they’ll check with the sites’ caretakers first.
H/T: Condé Nast Traveler