New homesharing platform to launch in Japan amid relaxed rules

Munekatsu Ota

Japanese online retail giant Rakuten and real estate information provider Lifull are teaming up on a vacation rental business, set for launch as soon as Japan’s Private Lodgings Business Law comes into effect in January 2018.

“Rakuten has been looking for opportunities in the sharing economy, and the recent passing of the law has been a great chance for us to enter the vacation rental industry,” said Munekatsu Ota, representative director of Rakuten Lifull Stay.

Munekatsu Ota

He added: “The new legislation allows businesses to contribute to the vitalisation of the tourism industry by creating new resources and employment in the industry without competing with the existing accommodation industry.”

The launch of this platform comes amid loosening rules on homesharing as Japan struggles to keep up with demand for accommodation, particularly in key cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto and during tourism peaks such as cherry-blossom season.

Available in a number of languages, Rakuten Lifull Stay will initially target business users in major Japanese cities, with plans to expand into more rural areas and more varied segments, Ota said.

The company will leverage Rakuten’s membership and group resources to attract guests and create awareness, and Lifull’s industry experience and real estate networks to bring in hosts. It also plans to develop outsourcing options with external partners to reduce operational burdens.

For inbound travel, the firm plans to partner major travel companies to acquire guests.

Rakuten has a user base of approximately 90 million members in Japan while Lifull has some eight million properties and a network of 22,000 affiliated real estate offices across the country.

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