Japan is Starting a War With Airbnb

Airbnb hosts in Japan may offer some of the most interesting rentable destinations out there but with the government and hotel industry trying to clamp down on them, the practice may come to an abrupt end.

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Japanese home sharers will have to discontinue renting out their private homes as government officials have recently declared that it is illegal to do so in the country. According to Agence France-Presse, hotel owners and citizens have been airing complaints about the rising number of visitors in the neighborhoods as tourists began flocking in record numbers.

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As a result, Airbnb sharer like Sarah Takeda, who used to  rent her home’s traditional tatami-mat room for about 3,000 yen (around $28) a night, may no longer host guests. Local authorities have reportedly threatened her with a 30,000 yen ($280) fine or 6 months in jail if she continued to do so.

“I had no idea Airbnb was against the law when I was running it,” Takeda told AFP. “They said some of the neighbors had commented that many foreigners were coming to our house.”

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Similar disputes over Airbnb’s business model going against government regulations have also erupted in other parts of the world. Japan’s case is particularly special since the growing demand for accommodation space has grown following the recent spike of tourists in the country. Airbnb and its renters, have not only filled in the gap, but also helped in making the previously expensive country more affordable to many.

Such benefits have caused the government to review options, with the possibility of allowing private homeowners in residential areas to rent out their space for up to 180 days a year.

For the hoteliers, having other players meet the demand is fine as long as there is a level playing field for everyone in the industry.

“If ryokans (traditional inns) and hotels operate under the same regulations (as Airbnb hosts) and then we lose, I could accept it,” said Japan Ryokan & Hotel Association chairman  Satoru Haritani. “But if one industry is regulated and the other is not, and we have to compete under different rules, then that kind of situation would be nothing but unfair.”

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