Airbnb has been forced to cancel a promotion that offered competition winners the chance to spend a night on Great Wall of China after an official heritage body said it had not approved the plan.
“We understand and respect the opinions put forth by the Cultural Commission,” the room-booking app provider said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.
The statement, in Chinese, came in response to comments from the Beijing Yanqing Cultural Commission, which said that it did not support the project as it “is not in line with the Great Wall’s heritage conservation values”.
The government bureau, which is responsible for the popular Badaling section of the wall, said on Weibo it had never approved any plans for the project from any organisation.
The Airbnb statement said it had been in talks with “relevant parties” over several months before launching the promotion.
“We have made the decision to not move forward with this event,” it said in a separate statement in English on Tuesday, adding that it had apologised to those who had already entered the competition.
Despite its comments, the page promoting the competition was still available on the company’s English and Chinese websites.
Beijing Badaling Tourism Company, Airbnb’s local partner on the project, said, meanwhile, that the two companies were “still working together”, but did not elaborate.
The cultural commission declined to comment on the issue.
China introduced a law in 2006 to protect the 2,600-year old Great Wall, part of which prohibits the building of any structures on it that are not part of an official conservation effort.
Airbnb’s plan to convert a watchtower into a bedroom upset many people online.
“The Great Wall is a historic relic … how can they let it be turned into a common guest house?” a person wrote on Weibo.
The company said last week that “protecting historical and cultural relics was the original intention of our activity”.
One of the modern seven wonders of the world and a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Great Wall of China stretches about 21,000km from Liaoning province in China’s northeast to Gansu province in the northwest. — South China Morning Post