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Gaming News

What You Should Know About Traveling to Japan Now that Airbnb Laws Are Changing 

June 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Kyoto, JapanPhoto: Patrick Allan

It’s not a good time for Airbnb hosts or renters in Japan right now: The private residence renting service was recently forced to cancel thousands of already booked and paid reservations in Japan, all thanks to a new set of Japanese laws that went into effect on June 15. Here’s what’s going on over there, and what you can do if you were planning on renting with Airbnb in Japan in the near future.

The new Japanese regulations, or laws regarding minpaku (private lodging businesses), require hosts throughout the country to register for new licenses and follow new rules, which are directly affecting any reservations that were scheduled between June 15 and June 19. Basically, if you had a scheduled rental in Japan right now, you probably don’t anymore. According to Airbnb, the Japanese government was unwilling to grant private lodging businesses much of a grace period, even if they were in the process of registration for a new license:

“Unfortunately, the Japanese government issued a sudden announcement on June 1 instructing any host without a license number to cancel upcoming reservations that were booked before June 15 – even though many of these hosts are actively engaged in the registration process or awaiting their license.”

Not only were hosts and guests caught off guard, so was Airbnb. The company said that this surprise move was “contrary” to the guidance the Japanese Tourism Agency (JTA) had given them previously, and that the JTA was unwilling to negotiate.

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In the last few days, thousands of travelers have been scrambling to find last-minute lodging for trips they’ve been planning for months, which is already difficult when you consider the traditional Japanese etiquette of booking stays far in advance. Fortunately, Airbnb is offering stranded travelers some vouchers for the full cost of their trip (and then some), 24/7 support, and other benefits for the inconvenience. They’re also able to get assistance from the Japan Travel Bureau to help find new accommodations.

But these new private lodging regulations are likely going to affect Airbnb well after the month of June. Japan’s Nikkei newspaper noted that Airbnb had around 62,000 listings in Japan at the beginning of the year, but now the number has plummeted to only 13,800—nearly an 80% decrease. Some of those listings will return as hosts complete their registration for new licenses, but many won’t. Hosts are concerned the new regulations will drive potential guests away, or make it too hard to make money.

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One of the new laws, for example, says hosts can only rent out their private homes for 180 days out of the year. If a host had purchased a home specifically to rent out year-round, this law potentially cuts their yearly revenue in half, and certainly deters would-be renters from pursuing such a venture. Takuya Ichikawa, senior researcher of the Daiwa Institute of Research, tells Japan Times that the minpaku market is expected to shrink in the short term, and that nonprofessional renters are going to have to give up rentals—which defeats the purpose of a “sharing economy” business like Airbnb.

But all of this is for the best, says Nobuhiko Hohokabe, an official at the JTA. According to Hohokabe, setting steady rules like these will help expand a healthy minpaku business that ensures the safety and security of users. And more users are on their way. Visitors to Japan have been surging in numbers the last few years, and the JTA expect a whopping 40 million foreign visitors by 2020 when the Tokyo Olympics take place.

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The current problems, as frustrating as they may be, are supposedly just growing pains. There may be 80% fewer rentals now, but that number will hopefully be closer to only 20 or 30% fewer over the next few months. This “adjustment period” is necessary for the long-term potential of the Japanese market, says Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb cofounder and CSO. He says the company has no plans of giving up on the country, especially with the upcoming Olympics:

“…there’s an expectation there’ll be an additional 12 million visitors. To accommodate all of those visitors, they simply won’t be able to build enough hotels. There’s going to need to be a diversity of options. Japan has 8 million vacant homes and that is a wasted asset, so we think there’s huge potential for those homes to be used productively to accommodate guests and also for local people to participate in this global tourism industry…”

So what’s a traveler to do? Is your future trip to Japan ruined? No way! First, expect finding an Airbnb in Japan to be difficult for the next year or so. It’s illegal for hosts to operate until they get registered and that will take some time. Even then, expect fewer listings overall since many homeowners will decide short-term rentals aren’t worth the hassle anymore.

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That said, check out other affordable options for lodging, like capsule hotels, manga cafes, night buses, business hotels, and more. They give you a lot of bang for your buck and make a budget trip to Japan more than feasible. Who knows? You might even be able to afford a night or two at a traditional ryokan if you save enough.

Tech News

Airbnb lets hosts offer their homes for future emergencies

June 9, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Airbnb hosts have long had the opportunity to offer free housing during emergencies. What about making yourself available ahead of time? If you live in the right area, you’re set. The home rental service is launching a pilot program that will let San Jose residents put themselves on a standby list before there’s even a hint of a crisis. The move should speed up the community’s response in the event of a crisis, ensuring that stranded people don’t have to wait for shelters over their heads.

The test run will also include in-person preparedness recruiting and training as well as a “new operational protocol” for emergencies that includes management teams. The pilot is poised to expand to other cities after the San Jose launch.

There’s a strong incentive to do this: it builds good will at a time when some cities are still giving Airbnb the cold shoulder. At the same time, there’s no question this could be useful during earthquakes or other scenarios where there may be an urgent need for places to stay.

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Airbnb pulls over 48,000 rentals in Japan following recent law

June 8, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re planning to stay at an Airbnb rental in Japan in the near future, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Airbnb has removed about 48,200 rentals (about 78 percent of those in the country) after the Japanese government ordered home sharing companies to pull any rentals booked before June 15th that didn’t have license numbers issued under a recent law regulating home-based accommodations. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it weren’t that the June 1st order was “contrary” to previous guidance from the Japanese Tourism Agency, Airbnb said — and officials didn’t appear to care that “many” of the hosts were already registering or waiting for their licenses.

Airbnb specifically took down any reservation slated for arrivals between June 15th and June 19th, and warned that it would automatically cancel any future reservations if if they don’t have a license 10 days before guests are due to appear. As compensation, the company created a $10 million fund to cover expenses for guests affected by the cancellations, including both new accommodations and related costs like flight change fees. It also promised travelers full refunds, coupons worth “at least” the full value of the cancelled bookings and $100 each toward Airbnb Experiences. If you’re one of those who qualifies, you should get your compensation in two to four weeks.

The law itself is generally considered positive. It gives people permission to offer rentals for up to 180 days where the previous approach required that they either secure a hotel permit or operate in a special economic zone. The national-level law is looser than in some municipalities, many of which either bar rentals in residential areas or only allow them for a shorter period of time. It’s just that the government is suddenly enforcing the rules in a stricter fashion.