Despite regulatory issues, Airbnb looks to boost listings in Japan, its fastest-growing market


Airbnb Inc. is seeking to increase its number of short-stay listings in Japan, its fastest-growing market.

The number of guests for its home rental service has surged 529 percent this year from a year ago, while listings are up 373 percent to 21,000. That has created a shortage of supply, Yasuyuki Tanabe, the country manager of Airbnb Japan, said in an interview. On top of regulatory issues Airbnb faces in the country, having enough supply is also a challenge, he said.

“We call it supply constraints,” Tanabe said. “We have many more people who want to come to Japan compared to the number of listings.”

A record 16.3 million people visited Japan in the first 10 months of the year, and the number of visitors rose 44 percent in October compared with a year earlier, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. A weaker yen and looser visa rules have contributed to more tourists from countries including China and Canada. Record-high inbound tourism also has led to a shortage of hotel rooms in the Tokyo and Osaka metropolises.

Airbnb has pledged to join with local governments and improve transparency as it faces scrutiny from hotels and policymakers who argue the home-sharing startup is driving up rental prices and failing to pay taxes like the hotel industry. Earlier this month, it released the “Airbnb Community Compact,” a statement outlining its plan to cooperate with cities, and defending the positive economic impacts of its business.

The total income the hosts in Japan received was ¥8.8 billion during the year that ended in June, according to a survey by Airbnb.

The hotel occupancy rate has risen to 70 percent in Japan, the highest level since the Japan Tourism Agency started to gather the data in 2010. The occupancy rate for hotels in Tokyo reached 84 percent and that of Osaka hit 90 percent.

More than 500,000 guests have stayed in homes rented through Airbnb in Japan since 2010. The growth has presented challenges, not just for Airbnb, but also for the Japanese government as it seeks to revise hotel regulations that were written in 1948.

“Things are moving fast and that itself is a unique challenge for Japan,” said Mike Orgill, director of public policy for Asia Pacific at Airbnb. “The high growth rate has created the impetus to start looking into revising these things.”