Rakuten STAY CEO Munekatsu Ota [Credit: Rakuten STAY]

Rakuten plans global expansion for STAY rental business

Japan: Japanese e-commerce and technology conglomerate, Rakuten, is seeking to accelerate the international expansion of Rakuten STAY, its latest vacation rental model in which it will own, manage and operate its inventory.

Previously called Rakuten LIFULL STAY until Rakuten bought out LIFULL’s 49 per cent stake last year, Rakuten STAY’s real estate model is designed to own and operate its own brand of “wide spaces”, according to CEO Munekatsu Ota, including private villas and apartments. There are currently around 600 rooms of Rakuten STAY accommodations, which accommodate between eight and ten people, and the company aims to expand this to 10,000 in the future.

This is in addition to Rakuten’s existing Vacation STAY brand, which features around 100,000 listings of vacation rentals, hotels, apartments and special zone private lodgings in destinations such as Tokyo, Hokkaido, Osaka, Kyoto, Okinawa, Chiba and Kanagawa.

A differentiating factor for Rakuten STAY villas and apartments is that they are designed to be fully unmanned by using technology to “increase operational efficiencies”. Ota said that the idea for the concept was born during the pandemic, when guests reported feeling safer staying in private accommodations without many other people.

Ota told webintravel that Rakuten STAY accommodation will be fully powered by services within the Rakuten ecosystem: “Inside the accommodation, we have e-commerce services where people can buy immediately via QR code. There’s Rakuten Music, Books, etc. Only water and gas are out of the Rakuten ecosystem and with Rakuten working on energy – solar power and gas – soon, it will only be water that’s not provided by Rakuten.

“This is a model only Rakuten can do,” he added.

While Rakuten currently only owns eight of the 43 properties in its inventory, Ota says that he is looking to increase the share through acquisitions and by using a data analytics-driven approach to manage the end-to-end guest experience, thus delivering a high return on investment [ROI].

Besides Rakuten STAY, Ota also serves as the CEO of Rakuten Travel Xchange, which partners with more than 900 online travel agencies [OTAs] and wholesale bed banks in 90 countries to distribute accommodation inventory.

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