• Airbnb appears to be having a rough time in China.

Airbnb appears to be having a rough time in China. (Photo : www.siliconbeat.com)

China, one of the world's economic superpowers, has its way of making the game a bit harder for top industry players. Apple, for example, is facing copyright issues in the country against a little-known local maker. eBay, Groupon and Uber also have their own headaches there.

The latest famed brand to join the fray appears to be Airbnb.

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In a report by Tech in Asia, the popular online home rental marketplace is said to be behind in China and is being outstripped by its local rivals.

"Airbnb hasn't yet lost, but it's definitely behind, and things don't seem to be going as planned," Tech in Asia wrote.

According to the website, of Airbnb's 2 million worldwide listings, only about 30,000 of them are in China, or a disappointing 1.5 percent.

The company's scope outside of top-tier cities is also "terrible," with number of listings going less than 300.

Meanwhile, local competitors are trumping the San Francisco, California-based group. Tujia and Mayi, two of Airbnb's major Chinese rivals, claim to have 420,000 and 300,000 listings, respectively.

Tech in Asia cites three reasons behind Airbnb's difficulties in penetrating the Chinese market.

The first hindrance lies in cultural gaps, with Airbnb unable to fully adapt to the desires of consumers in China.

"[I]n China, where instant messaging has always been more popular than e-mail, people are used to getting fast responses to questions. If you have a question about a listing on Airbnb, you can message the landlord, but you have to do it through the site. You don't get to talk to a real person directly (which builds trust) and you might not get a quick response," Tech in Asia wrote.

In contrast, users are given the option to call the landlord on Tujia, which lists the for-rent place's phone numbers.

Airbnb has also struggled in keeping up with its competitors' expansion efforts.

Rivals such as Tujia have been expanding for years, leaving behind Airbnb, which only started its serious efforts in China last year.

"That means that in every city, Airbnb faces entrenched competition," wrote Tech in Asia.

The last crucial factor hindering the company from exhausting China's potential is regulation.

As an emerging industry, short-term online rentals are not covered by a specific framework. This includes rules that involve tax and safety concerns.

"Because the industry hasn't exploded as fast as other 'sharing economy' services like car booking, it hasn't received the same level of regulatory attention," Tech in Asia said.

However, Airbnb's regulatory issues are not exclusive in China. The company faces the same problem in the U.S.

According to Business Insider, "some policy-makers say that Airbnb rentals will reduce the number of homes available for long-term habitation."

In 2014, Airbnb was fined in Europe after a court ruled that the company had violated a law in Catalonia that "prohibits renting out a single apartment for the purpose of tourism," Business Insider said.