Airbnb and Rivals Look To Rural Accommodation Options

After regulation enforcement in June, short-term lodging services have started promoting properties in the Japanese countryside to make up for losses

Rural accommodation in traditional houses in Japanese countryside
Traditional houses in Japanese countryside

Rural accommodation has seen an unexpected hike following the enforcement of the Japanese home-sharing law. The law, which requires all hosts to register, caused a lot of issues for tourists and accommodation service providers, such as Airbnb, last June.

The new law restricts the number of days home owners can rent out their rooms to 180 days a year, and they must also confirm the identity of their guests. As a result, the legislation has made vacation rentals less profitable in big cities causing a decline in available properties.

Airbnb and HomeAway were forced to pull thousands of their listings which hadn’t been properly registered.

However, service providers have noticed that tourists are growing more interested in experiencing the Japanese countryside. Many foreign tourists are looking for hosts that can offer something a little different from what they can expect in urban areas.

Hyakusenrenma – the startup making rural accommodation easier for visitors

In the city of Sendai in the north of the country, a new vacation rental startup, Hyakusenrenma, launched a flat-rate booking service in September called Stay Japan Pass.

Visitors can choose to pay for one, two or three-week passes costing 39,000 yen, 78,000 yen or 117,000 yen, respectively. This pass grants them access to around 100 properties throughout Japan.

The startup offers six themes to help tourists customize their trips with rural accommodation options including home stays, farm stays, and other hidden treasures.

Since its establishment, the company has always focused on properties that were legally registered under the existing hotel business law. Hyakusenrenma currently lists 2,000 rooms on its website.

Metro Engines, a developer of an IT-based accommodation assistance tool, put the total number of active rental property listings at 56,000 before the law. And of those, about 70% were in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

The number of foreign lodgers in rural areas rose by 16% last year, making it the first year in which visitors to the countryside exceeded 40%

Rivals Airbnb and HomeAway are shifting their attention to the countryside

The startup’s rivals are eager to rebuild their databases. Airbnb, which had 62,000 listings in the spring of this year had to withdraw 80% of its properties after the law was enforced. HomeAway also had to remove some of the 10,000 properties it had registered on its website.

HomeAway has since partnered with the Japan Kominka Association, a group whose aim is to preserve traditional Japanese houses, to rent out properties in rural areas. An estimated 1.3 million of these houses exist in Japan and many of them are sitting empty.

Airbnb has joined forces with Beppu City Ryokan Hotel Association, an organization of traditional inns in Oita, which is an area famous for its hot springs.

The number of foreign lodgers in rural areas rose by 16% last year, making it the first year in which rural visitors exceeded 40%. The push to develop tourism in the countryside is definitely proving effective so we can be sure the number of rural accommodation options will continue to rise.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

City accommodation’s loss has become rural Japan’s gain following the recent regulation of the industry.

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