Japan keeps fighting against the lack of accommodations induced by the Airbnb shutdown
Friday, July 6, 2018
Lodging in the country collapses just when the Olympics are around the corner.
During the last month, thousands of tourists that were about to visit Japan received an email from one of the largest companies for tourism accommodation solutions, Airbnb, explaining that their bookings were going to be automatically cancelled because the properties they rented were not legally registered accordingly with the new lodging regulations. In other words - a huge amount of visitors suddenly found themselves with nowhere to stay during their vacation in the country. Due to the little time to consider any other alternatives, some of the affected decided to give it a go to those illegal lodgings.
What changes does the new Minpaku law introduce?
- A special permission is required for short-term rental purposes.
- Owners cannot rent their homes during more than 180 days per year.
- It is mandatory to keep a guest log and to check the identity of the visitors.
- Illegal operators will face higher fines if caught (up to 1,000,000 yen).
- Local municipalities can also add their own restrictions to the original law (for example, the famous Shinjuku-ku in western Tokyo plans allow the lodging just on weekends and some areas of Kyoto will be available only during January and February, while Osaka city did not show any intention to set up any limits).
Unfortunately, the problem continues almost a month after the new law came into force - the lodgings offered by Airbnb on their website at the moment are still minimum (from more than 67,000 listed properties at the beginning of the spring to roughly 13,000 at this moment) and all the reservations are being automatically cancelled 10 days before the expected arrival. To ease the inconveniences caused to the customers, the platform has prepared a special plan of $10 million to support the fees derived of the cancellations, and all the travellers affected will receive a full refund, as well as an Airbnb coupon to be used in future bookings.
Given the circumstances, guests and hosts had no other option than to take the initiative - while travellers are looking for other accommodation possibilities or even cancelling their trips, the second ones are trying to find a way to get around the strict regulations (for example, managing without the help of operators like Airbnb and contacting the guests by themselves), even if it verges on the legality.
Tourism is a flourishing business for the country: Japan received 13 million foreign visitors from January to May this year, a record-breaking number according to the reports of the Japan Tourism Agency and everything seems to indicate that it is an upward trend. With the Olympic Games approaching slow but steady, the urge of lodging options is a priority that needs to be solved as soon as possible. This sudden shortage on the lodging options could have a negative impact not only in the Japanese economy, but also in the reputation of a country that has to put on its best face if they want to successfully reach their goal of attracting 40 million foreign visitors by 2020.
Despite that, there is no doubt that the government will do its best to balance the welfare of the citizens and the new challenges that the uprising tourism rates represent: not for nothing perseverance is part of the samurai spirit. And even without Airbnb the country still have fabulous accommodation options such as 旅館 (ryokan, traditional japanese inns), 民宿 (minshuku, farms in the countryside or in the mountains) or maybe 宿坊 (shukubo, temple lodging). This could be a great chance to try something new and live an adventure!
About the Author
Half writer, half reader. Tokyo based and deeply in love with - you can easily find me meandering around Shibuya or Shin-Okubo. Intern in Communication and Marketing by day, video game translator and proofreader by night.