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Airbnb teams with bookstore chain to raise profile in Japan

Culture Convenience Club President Muneaki Masuda, left, and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia discuss the tie-up between their two companies.

TOKYO -- Airbnb, a U.S.-based operator of a rental accommodations website, has formed a tie-up with Culture Convenience Club to try to boost its presence and name recognition in Japan.

The Japanese company, which runs the Tsutaya chain of bookstores and DVD rental shops, will disseminate information about Airbnb at its various outlets under the partnership announced Friday.

CCC also will help Airbnb increase the stock of rental lodgings in Japan by encouraging people to list rooms, apartments, homes and other private properties for vacation rentals. People who become Airbnb hosts can receive CCC's shopping points based on the rental income their properties generate.

Airbnb is spreading in Japan. The number of people who used the website to find private lodgings for stays in the country reached roughly 1.3 million in 2015, up fivefold from 2014. Many foreigners who used the service for visits to Japan noted that staying in ordinary homes let them experience the local culture and way of life better than staying in a hotel.

But the Japanese market remains underdeveloped compared with that of the U.S. and Europe. Japan accounts for only around 35,000 of the more than 2 million accommodations worldwide registered on Airbnb's website.

Regulatory restrictions, as well as the growing number of condominiums banning homestay, are seen as major reasons Airbnb has struggled to make inroads in the Japanese market. But CCC President Muneaki Masuda thinks the main factor is that "the true essence of Airbnb is not well understood" in Japan. His company wants to help "spread the Japanese-style homestay rentals," Masuda said.

Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, attending a news conference Friday in Tokyo alongside Masuda, expressed his hope that the tie-up with CCC will lead to the creation of new services.

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