Business

Airbnb listings in Japan rebound after regulatory freeze

Bloomberg

Airbnb Inc. says it’s back in business in Japan, a year after stricter short-term lodging regulations forced it to freeze a major portion of its listings in the country.

There are 50,000 listings available in the country, with another 23,000 rooms in hotels and traditional inns known as ryokan, Airbnb said in a statement on Thursday. That compares with 60,000 total in June 2018, when the new short-term lodging rules went into effect.

While Airbnb is no stranger to clashes with regulators, it had tried a more cooperative approach in Japan. Still, the government set a deadline for hosts to register and then in June 2018 forced those that were unregistered to cancel reservations two weeks ahead of that date. Listings plunged by almost 80 percent to just 13,800, the Nikkei newspaper reported at the time. Airbnb is preparing to go public by the end of the year and argues that Japan is an example of how its business model can withstand even the most restrictive regulatory regimes.

“This shows that we can grow even in those environments,” said Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer, in an interview in Tokyo. “There are no more existential questions about Airbnb.”

Legalization has opened doors for some of Japan’s largest corporations to enter the short-term lodging market. Local collaborators already include SoftBank Group Corp., convenience store operator FamilyMart UNY Holdings Co., electronics retailer Bic Camera Inc. and airline company ANA Holdings Inc.

Airbnb said Thursday that partners in the market had grown to more than 117 companies, including property developer Panasonic Homes Co. and real estate brokerage HouseDo Co. While the exact details of the agreements are yet to be decided, the companies may help supply a pipeline of properties for lease or purchase that are home-sharing friendly, said Yasuyuki Tanabe, Airbnb’s country manager for Japan.

“The tide has changed,” said Tanabe. “And there are particular challenges in Japan. Everybody is saying we are going to live to 100, but we won’t have enough money to live to 100. There is going to be more interest for people to start hosting for extra cash.”

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