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Airbnb rival enlists star power to tap $1.8bn Japan market

China's social media celebrities post videos of staying at private homes

Chinese lodging platform Tujia is using video-streaming sites to show what it has to offer in Japan.

TOKYO -- Ahead of the official opening up of the home-sharing market in Japan next year, global vacation rental companies are using video streaming sites -- and a bit of social media star power -- to increase their visibility.

Tujia, often referred to as the Airbnb of China, is posting videos introducing Japanese accommodations and destinations on more than 10 streaming sites, including Youku and Bilibili. The clips feature popular Chinese internet celebrities, who share their experiences staying in private homes. The initial plan was to have the social media stars post videos every three to four months, but the timeline has been shortened to once every month or two.

At the moment, home-sharing companies are operating in a legal gray zone in Japan. But new legislation, set to take effect next year, is expected to open up the market and kick-start its growth. Research company Metaps forecasts the home-sharing market in Japan to grow 2.4-fold to 20 billion yen ($1.8 billion) by 2020.

Tujia's social media strategy also includes a short movie filmed in partnership with the city of Iiyama, in the central prefecture of Nagano. It will be released on Youku in December, where it is expected to reach around 2 million viewers. The idea is to present a more complete picture of what Japan has to offer, such as winter scenery.

The lodging platform is keen to forge more tie-ups with local governments and other organizations, as it strives to get more Chinese tourists to Japan to opt for private room rentals.

Not to be outdone, Airbnb is also using video streaming to raise its profile in Japan. The world's No. 1 home-sharing platform teamed up with Space Shower Networks, a music channel operator for satellite and cable TV in Japan, to launch a campaign combining tunes and travel.

On Aug. 20, they streamed a live performance by Japanese band Fukumimi from a private home in Nagano Prefecture. Another band, Awesome City Club, held a live show on Monday out of a home in the western prefecture of Kagawa.

The concept of home-sharing first caught on in Europe and the U.S. It is gaining popularity in Japan, too, though mainly among international visitors. Japanese account for only about 20% of Airbnb users in their own country.

The U.S. company has roughly 53,000 registered rooms in Japan, and some 5 million people use its service annually. Airbnb hopes to bump up those numbers by attracting more domestic tourists with its videos and commercials.


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