By Jeff Wynkoop
In recognition of the growing influx of foreign tourists coming to Japan, the government has decided to do more to promote tourists using AirBnB-style short-term rentals in regular residences located in designated national strategic districts (国家戦略特区).
Beginning this fall, the existing restriction on renting out such residences will be changed to allow tourists to stay for a minimum of two nights (from a current minimum of six nights).
The government is also considering lowering restrictions on hotels and ryokan not located in designated national strategic districts (国家戦略特区) so they can better cater to foreign tourists.
Background and Current Status of AirBnB-Style Rentals in Japan
In April 2014, the government tried to deal with the growing influx of foreign tourists by creating a new Minpaku system in designated national strategic districts (国家戦略特区). “Minpaku” (民泊) is the word used for AirBnB-style rentals in Japan.
As a part of this new registration system, Minpaku businesses were excepted from application of the Hotel Business Law (旅館業法).
Since that time, there have been 17 registered Minpaku business facilities in Ota-ku in Tokyo, and 2 in Osaka prefecture. Osaka City is planning on establishing a new legal framework for Minpaku businesses in October, and Chiba City and Kitakyushu City are also planning on passing new Minpaku ordinances in the near term.
Minimum Number of Nights Lowered
The current legal restriction of only letting owners rent out their residences to visitors planning to stay at least six nights is a significant barrier to entry for would-be Minpaku entrepreneurs.
Visitors to Japan typically want to spend a few days in Tokyo and a few days in Kyoto or other cities to see as much as possible during their short time in the country.
New Legal Framework Planned
Accordingly, the government plans to change the applicable rules to help Minpaku businesses better benefit from the high foreign tourist demand.
After tracking trends in supply and demand and seeing what problems arise in Minpaku businesses in designated national strategic districts (国家戦略特区), the government also has plans to roll out a new Minpaku legal framework for all of Japan some time in the next few years.
Reaction from Hotels & Ryokan
Naturally the Japanese hotel and ryokan industries oppose opening up the Minpaku business further, so the government has in turn come up with several new policy initiatives to help placate their concerns.
The government is looking into lowering a variety of regulations on hotels and ryokan so they can better serve foreign tourists, including making it easier for such businesses to hire help from abroad.
The government is also considering strengthening legal penalties for running an unlicensed hotel or ryokan.
Source: Nikkei Shinbun, August 5, 2016, morning edition
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Top photo: Tsushima, Nagasaki, Japan.