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Japan’s Recruit Holdings announces entry into vacation rental market

by

Staff Writer

Recruit Holdings Co. on Wednesday became the latest Japanese firm to announce its entry into the vacation rental market ahead of a new law taking effect in June giving the green light to private short-term minpaku lodging services.

Recruit, the nation’s largest provider of temporary staff, said in a news release that it will be collaborating with vacation rental behemoth Airbnb Inc. to offer rental properties listed on its housing site, Suumo, for short-term accommodation.

Suumo — one of Japan’s largest real estate websites — lists over 6.2 million rental properties. Under the new plan aimed at minimizing tenant vacancy, owners providing information to Suumo will have the option to post properties on Airbnb to attract short-term guests.

Airbnb lists approximately 4 million properties in over 190 countries. In Japan alone it lists over 56,000 properties and is by far the largest such provider in the nation.

Recruit will suggest that interested hosts hire property management service providers once the project takes off following the new law’s enforcement on June 15.

Whether or not a property can be listed simultaneously on Suumo and Airbnb, however, is currently being debated by regulators, according to a spokeswoman for Recruit Sumai Co., a Recruit subsidiary that operates Suumo.

“Our aim is to increase the profitability of rental properties,” she said, adding that the company is open to collaborating with other vacation rental platforms.

Japan has seen a surge in new players jumping on the vacation rental bandwagon since the government passed a law last year designed to provide a more level playing field for minpaku, which have so far resided in a legal gray zone.

E-commerce giant Rakuten Inc., for example, has announced a series of collaborations — including with Expedia Inc.’s vacation rental service HomeAway, online travel agent Booking.com and China’s largest vacation rental service Tujia — to see future properties listed on its tentatively titled Vacation Stay service available on these sites.

Under the current framework, private operations are technically illegal in most areas except those designated for minpaku usage by the government. That means operators like Airbnb face the risk of running into regulatory hurdles, a situation that has kept risk-averse companies at bay.

But once the new law comes into force, it will allow people to rent out properties for a maximum of 180 nights a year if lodging providers register with local governments. Service platforms will be required to register with the tourism agency, which plans to create an online system to monitor the accommodation situation at all minpaku businesses.

Local governments, however, appear wary of potential safety and sanitation issues arising from minpaku properties and are discussing or preparing to pass ordinances that will place strict limits on where minpaku can be located.

Demand for lodging has grown in recent years amid a surge in foreign visitors combined with a shortage of hotels and other types of inns.

Japan attracted a record 28.69 million tourists in 2017, up 19.3 percent from the previous year and the sixth straight yearly increase. The government wants to see that figure to reach 40 million by 2020, when Japan will host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.