Home-sharing services on the rise in Japan as owners cash in on tourist boom

posted on September 30, 2015

For foreign tourists to Japan, staying at traditional ryokan inns is a popular way to enjoy their trips, but home-sharing services are growing as an alternative form of accommodation.

Legally speaking, some home-sharing services fall in a gray zone because existing accommodation rules were drafted before such services began on the Internet.

Following are questions and answers about home-sharing services in Japan.

What has prompted the rise in home-sharing services in Japan?
The rising popularity can be traced to the fast-growing U.S.-based agency Airbnb Inc., which mediates between “hosts” offering to share their homes and “guests” seeking to stay in them.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb provides its services from its website, which has about 50 million users and lists 1.5 million homes in more than 190 countries. In Japan, 16,000 homes - a threefold increase on last year - are registered with the service, the firm said, while the number of foreign tourists who used the service in Japan shot up fivefold in the same period.

Tokyo-based venture minma Inc. launched a similar site called Room stay in April, while another, Tomarina, is run by Tokyo-based Tomareru Inc.

The growing demand for home-sharing may be attributable to the rapid increase in inbound tourists, as many users who book stays via Airbnb are foreign travelers, according to the company.

In 2013, the number of foreign tourists exceeded 10 million for the first time and is still growing. The country is expected to see about 19 million visitors this year.

What advantages are there in home-sharing?
By staying at local homes, “travelers can enjoy real local experiences as if they were living there,” instead of the perspective travelers have when staying in hotels, Airbnb said in an email.

Hosts can benefit by offering vacant rooms for profit.

Airbnb’s global research shows that 70 percent of homes registered on its site are located outside hotel-concentrated areas. Thus the economic effects of tourism can be distributed over wider regions, the company said.

How does home-sharing fall in a legal gray area?
The Inns and Hotels Act states that those who accommodate guests for a fee on a regular basis must obtain permission from their local government.

Those violating the law can face a maximum ¥30,000 fine or up to six months in prison.

In fact, a British male who failed to receive such permission was reportedly arrested in May for earning profits from people who stayed at his home. Media reports said authorities had warned him many times.

In that sense, people who register their homes to matching websites, including Airbnb, could be operating such services illegally if they don’t have permission from authorities.

source by newsonjapan
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