By Jeff Wynkoop
The Japanese government recently indicated an important change is coming to the legal framework for Airbnb-style rentals or “Minpaku” (民泊).
Speaking on September 9th at the Advisory Committee Meeting on National Strategic Zones (kokkasenryaku tokubetsukuiki jimonkaigi), Prime Minister Abe stated that he would like to see the limit for stays at Minpaku be lowered from the current minimum of 7-10 days to 2 nights, 3 days.
At present there is a cabinet ordinance that creates an exception to the Hotel Business Law (ryokangyouhou) for Minpaku licensed and operating in National Strategic Zones, but because there is a minimum stay requirement of “7 to 10 days”, operators under the exception are having a hard time finding guests who wish to stay at least 7 nights.
Most guests flying to Japan prefer to spend a few nights in different places to be able to see as much as possible during their stay.
Continuing High Demand for Hotels
The key here is the continuing high demand for hotel rooms. Because so many hotels in Japan are operating at 90% or more of capacity, the government recognizes that the restrictions on Minpaku (and the resultant lack of suitable short-term accommodations) are putting a damper on growth in the tourist sector and thus the Japanese economy as a whole.
In addition, there are a number of unlicensed operators who allow guests to stay less than 7 nights, so the current restrictions are spurring the growth of illicit Minpaku websites and unlicensed accommodations in locales of acute need.
Implementation of New Rules As Early as November 2016
The government is planning to begin the process of taking public comments by the end of September, with the aim of amending the Minpaku cabinet ordinance by the middle of October.
However, to complement the new Minpaku cabinet ordinance, local municipal rules must also be changed to implement the new rule framework.
For this reason, it is hard to predict the timing of changes and the new minimum number of days that will be required for each individual National Strategic Zone.
Nevertheless, for places like Osaka City and Tokyo, Ota-ku which are experiencing a severe shortage of short-term stay accommodations, local ordinances are expected to be amended to implement a new 2-night stay minimum by as early as November this year.
Although representatives of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism and the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare are currently working on a comprehensive Minpaku legal framework designed to apply all over Japan, the process is taking a lot of time.
The government has thus made the decision to quickly roll out changes to the Minpaku rules for National Strategic Zones as a test case for the national Minpaku law presently under consideration.
For other coverage on AirBnb in Japan, please see:
National Framework for AirBnB Style Rentals Coming to Japan: December 11, 2015
Osaka Enacts Ordinance to Open Up AirBnB-Style Rentals: December 8, 2015
Top Photo: Shirakawa-go, Gifu Prefecture, Japan