The big vacation rental players have formed an association in Japan, with the blessing of the Japan Tourism Agency. It may be a model for other Asian countries to follow.
It’s been in the works for six months and finally a Japan Association of Vacation Rental will be incorporated in January, comprising nine founding members that aim to boost Japan’s tourism through vacation rental businesses, including homesharing, ryokans that use residential facilities, and event vacation rentals.
The group comes together as Japan has been strictly enforcing rules against illegal 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 a Tokyo-based startup offering on-demand rental of unused or idle venues.
But what makes the Japan association unique is that it manages to get domestic and foreign players to cooperate towards the development of the vacation rental industry in the country.
“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,” Natsuko Kimura, HomeAway country manager, told Skift.
The nine companies will be on the board of directors. Kimura, along with 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 Asia-Pacific, said forming the association is a great first step for vacation rental companies to work together with government and regulators.
“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.”
Neither Clout nor collusion
But is a key aim focused around having a bigger clout to push government on policy and regulatory areas?
While Japan sees vacation rental as a solution, it has been tightening the screws on illegal rentals. The most recent clampdown was in June, when stringent new rules forced Airbnb to delist a major portion of its home listings and guest reservations in Japan.
Kimura echoed Kirtane’s thoughts, saying working closely within the industry and with the government is the goal, not about gaining clout.
“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.”
Asked about the possibility of any collusion on, say, pricing or supply, she said, “This association emphasizes fairness. As an example of fairness, representative directors represent two companies and the term for each director role is one year, ensuring there is no concentration of power to a specific company.
“Further, the activities of the association are open and transparent and subject to review by the JTA [Japan Tourism Agency].” The agency is part of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and is tasked with developing Japan as a world-class tourism industry.
She believes the association “can be a good model for Japan and perhaps for other Asian countries too.”
Perhaps such a grouping is more critical in Japan, whose tourism vision is to achieve 40 million international arrivals in 2020, and 60 million in 2030, yet supply of rooms is lacking overall. Last year, Japan welcome 28.7 million international arrivals.
The country is also hosting the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympic Games in 2020.
Photo credit: Airbnb, which was forced to delist thousands of illegal listings in Japan in June, is a founding member of the association Eric Newcomer / Bloomberg