This story has been updated to reflect new developments in the campaign.
Airbnb had offered a tantalizing contest: the chance to sleep overnight at the Great Wall of China.The four winners and their guests sleep were promised a stay in a watchtower on the Wall. Though they'd have no roof, the spartan space had been outfitted with a fancy-looking four-poster bed. Guests would have dinner there, with each course representing "a different aspect of Chinese culture and the culinary traditions of its people." And there would be a concert of traditional music too.
But it's not going to happen.
When the contest was first announced several days ago, some online commenters expressed concerns the event would commercialize a historic site, or damage it. Airbnb responded that it had worked with authorities on the project and that protection of cultural relics was top-of-mind in creating the event-- it said it "would not change so much as a nail."
But eventually, it canceled the event altogether. "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," the company said in a statement. "We have made the decision to not move forward with this event," and will work instead on other projects. The original contest site now features and update and an apology from the company.
Separately, a local cultural committee in the district where Airbnb planned the event said on social media that its cultural protection department had not been informed and had not approved of the plans.
Airbnb has been making big investments in the China market, though there is competition from similar local players including Tujia. The campaign, from Airbnb and FF Shanghai, tapped into Airbnb's mission of connecting people. "Thousands of years ago, this wall was built as a border," the entry form says. "These days, it brings people from all over the world together."
To enter the contest, people had to answer an essay question. "Why is it more important now than ever to break down barriers between cultures? How would you want to build new connections?" Some people were slightly intimidated: "I feel like I'm back in college exams," one commenter quipped on Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging site.