Airbnb and HomeAway among founding members of Japanese rental association

Japan: A Japan Association of Vacation Rentals will be established in January, uniting nine founding members aiming to boost the country’s vacation rental tourism.

These look set to include home-sharing ryokans (Japanese-style inns) that use residential facilities and event vacation rentals.

The group will be coming together at a time when Japan has been strictly enforcing rules against illegal vacation rentals.

The association includes Agoda International Japan, Airbnb, Booking.com Japan, Ctrip International Travel Japan, HomeAway, Hyakusenrenma, Tujia Japan, Rakuten Lifull Stay and Space Market. The latter is a Tokyo-based startup which offers on-demand rental options for unused venues.

It will be the fifth association of its kind in the world, following in the footsteps of the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) in the U.S., the Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA) in the UK, UNPLV in France and Fevitur in Spain.

However, Japan’s association will be unique in the sense that it will manage to get domestic and foreign players to collaborate in bringing about the development of the vacation rental industry in the country.

Speaking to Skift, HomeAway country manager Natsuko Kimura said: “The association consists of six international platforms and three domestic platforms [Hyakusenrenma, Rakuten and Space Market]. It is more common for industry associations in Japan to have only domestic companies.”

The nine founding member companies will serve on the board of directors. Furthermore, both Kimura and Hyakusenrenma CEO Yasuhiro Kamiyama will serve as the association’s first joint representative directors.

Prashant Kirtane, founder of Travelstop and a former HomeAway vice president of the Asia-Pacific region, said founding the association was a first step for vacation rental companies to work together with government and regulators.

Kirtane said: “As I understand it, this was in works for some time, and broadly it makes sense to talk in one voice to the government and regulators. The intent has always been to make sure the voice of the community is heard, since it is a new industry, and work together to help build these regulations.

“This is a great first step in that direction. This is an outsider’s perspective as I’ve been out of HomeAway for more than year,” he added.

However, while Japan sees vacation rental as a potential solution, it has also been leading a crackdown on illegal rentals. The most recent case was in June this year, when stringent new regulations forced Airbnb to delist a large chunk of its home listings and guest reservations in Japan.

Kimura agreed with Kirtane and added that the association’s goal was to work more closely with the industry and with the Japanese government.

Kimura said: “HomeAway’s objectives are to reduce illegal vacation rental listings by establishing proper processes and systems across the industry, and expanding a healthy vacation rental market in Japan by increasing legal listings.

“We do this by educating the general public, property managers, hosts and platformers; sharing current pain points and information among platforms so proposals may be made to governments and policymakers; and exchanging opinions and information with central and local governments in Japan for further improvements of current regulation over time,” she added.