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Travel & Leisure

Japan private lodging rentals rise in sign of tentative recovery

Bookings on Airbnb up 78% for early June with higher demand for nearby locations

Guests relax inside a room in a private lodging rental in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo. Bookings for such accommodation, particularly near big cities, are increasing.

TOKYO -- Demand for private lodging rentals in Japan is showing some signs of recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with locations near large cities seeing a big increase.

Between June 7 and 13, the number of bookings for minpaku -- private lodgings offered for rent in homes and apartments to cost-conscious travelers -- on Airbnb jumped 78% from the same period last year, according to the U.S.-based rental accommodation website operator.

Airbnb says bookings for accommodation within 80 km of big Japanese cities were up 60% from a year ago, indicating emerging demand for trips to nearby locations.

Detached houses and apartments in which guests can rent the entire building make up about 80% of total bookings, Airbnb said. Such accommodations are popular as guests can avoid spaces, and places that are crowded, lack good ventilation and place people in close proximity to each other. Extended time spent in such environments is a major risk factor for coronavirus infection.

Based on expert advice, Airbnb will formulate its own cleaning guidelines to provide owners of properties registered on the site with checklists based on how rooms should be cleaned. Starting June 30, the company will conduct a campaign on its website in an effort to promote the use of nearby rental accommodations.

Operators of private lodging rentals in Japan remain in dire straits largely due to the drying up of foreign visitors as well as residents of the country having been urged to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. But recent gradual relaxations in movement restrictions and business operating hours mean people are venturing out more. Reservations near big cities could be increasing as people may be avoiding longer journeys at first.

"People are beginning to use minpaku in a different way amid the coronavirus pandemic," said Airbnb Japan country manager Yasuyuki Tanabe. "We want... to push forward various initiatives" in response to it, Tanabe said.

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