May 15, 2017 3:00 pm JST

Airbnb to launch luxury reservation service in Japan

'Ryokan' traditional inns, specialty hotels to be main focus

Airbnb's new hotel booking site in Japan will focus on rooms offering special features.

TOKYO -- Airbnb is set to launch a new online service allowing people to reserve rooms at luxury Japanese-style inns and hotels.

In an effort to meet the increasingly diverse needs of tourists visiting Japan, the global room-booking platform will team up with Evolable Asia, a major online travel service provider and the country's largest online seller of air tickets.

The new service will focus on facilities offering special features and is scheduled for launch this summer.

It is hoped Airbnb's global reach -- 80 million used the service last year -- will help upscale Japanese inns and hotels attract more foreign tourists.

Some 1,500 inns and hotels are currently listed on a specialized website for booking upscale accommodation operated by Rakuda, an Evolable Asia subsidiary. Each will be asked to provide their information to Airbnb's site as well.

Evolable Asia will also go on a marketing drive to increase the number of facilities, with a preliminary target set at 5,000 rooms.

Along with upmarket Japanese inns with unique architectural and service features, the new Airbnb service will also put a high priority on high value added facilities.

Users will be able to reserve rooms in exactly the same way they book private rooms and homes through the short-term lodging service.

Evolable Asia will take care of registering information with the Airbnb site and also develop stay plans.

While the facilities will not be charged for being listed, they will be required to pay 10% of what they make from rooms booked through the site as commission. The payments will be split between Airbnb and Evolable Asia.

Airbnb's site lists nearly 50,000 rooms in private residences in Japan. Last year, some 3.7 million foreign tourists booked rooms through the site.

But such lodging services are yet to become as widely available in Japan as in many other countries, due mainly to delays in establishing regulations for the business.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet to legalize peer-to-peer rental of homes under certain conditions, including an annual operation limit of 180 days per supplier. Many of the facilities currently listed on Airbnb could end up failing to meet the regulations.

Despite growing numbers of inbound tourists, many Japanese-style inns and resort hotels are still struggling to fill their rooms.

In 2016, the average room-occupancy rate at full-service hotels was 78.7%, while the rates for traditional inns and resort hotels were 37.9% and 57.3%, respectively, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

Japanese-style inns at famous hot spring resorts and other popular destinations often prove a significant draw for travelers from other countries and have the potential to attract more tourists by being listed on the new site.

Airbnb is already widening the scope of its travel services by launching hotel-booking sites in other countries.

(Nikkei)

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