KYOTO – Police and officials from the city of Kyoto on Monday agreed to increase the crackdown on illegal private lodging facilities just 10 days after a new national law restricting their operation took effect.
“We want to cooperate closely with the police to close illegal facilities right away,” Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said at meeting of police and municipal officials on Monday morning.
The city estimates that there were likely 435 minpaku (short-term lodging facilities) operating illegally at of the end of May. It has warned that those who do not quickly bring their establishments in line with the June 15 law, as well as municipal rules on minpaku, face prosecution.
The push to close illegal facilities is part of a series of legal and bureaucratic efforts the city has made over the past year to curb their use. Following years of complaints by Kyoto residents that the owners or supervisors of such lodgings did not live nearby, that they were unsure who to contact in an emergency or when troubles arise over issues like garbage disposal, the city passed an ordinance requiring operators of such facilities to be able to get to them within 10 minutes of being called by the authorities.
The city also advises, in formal guidelines, that a minpaku operator or manager reside within 800 meters of the facility, one of the strictest local conditions applied to minpaku operations in Japan.
Kyoto, one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations in past few years, is struggling to keep up with demand for lodging, with its luxury and business hotels often fully booked months in advance.
Peak tourism periods in Kyoto include April, when the cherry blossoms peak, as well as October and November, when the autumn leaves start to appear.
A Kyoto convention bureau survey of 36 major hotels in February found that, the overall occupancy rate was 88.8 percent in 2017. Between March and November, with the exception of July, the occupation rate hit at least 90 percent every month. Only in January 2017 did the rate slip below 80 percent.
With demand expected to increase further due to next year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a hotel construction boom is under way in the city.
A survey by the daily Kyoto Shimbun earlier this year estimated that an additional 12,000 rooms at licensed hotels and Japanese inns were expected to be available by 2020.
But with Osaka only 30 minutes away by train, those looking to be near, if not in, Kyoto still have convenient, and sometimes cheaper, minpaku options if they can’t find a place within the city of Kyoto. From October, Kyoto’s new lodging tax will take effect at all hotels, Japanese inns and licensed minpaku in the city.
Facilities that charge rates of under ¥20,000 a night will levy a tax of ¥200 per guest per night. Places that charge between ¥20,000 and ¥50,000 a night will levy a ¥500 tax, with the top end facilities charging over ¥50,000 per night tacking on ¥1,000 per person.
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