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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 June 12 - 18  > One year under private lodging business law points to need for tighter regulations
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2019 June 12 - 18 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

One year under private lodging business law points to need for tighter regulations

June 17, 2019

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

One year has passed since a law on private lodging business or “minpaku” was implemented on June 15 last year which allows private individuals to provide rooms as accommodations to tourists. As the law does not set strict rules on this business, such as requirements concerning an appointment of a facility manager, almost anyone can be officially registered as minpaku operators after filing the necessary paperwork.

The Japan Tourism Agency’s data shows that the number of private lodging facility users increased to 748,000 in February and March this year from 223,000 in June and July last year. As of June 7, the number of people registered as minpaku operators across Japan reached 17,301, up from 2,210 when the law took effect.

On the other hand, there have been problems involving illegal, unregistered minpaku operators who use Internet reservation services provided by overseas travel-related companies which receive less attention from Japanese authorities. After the law went into effect, the Tourism Agency found that the U.S.-based major online accommodation platform Airbnb posted on its website accommodations allegedly provided by unlawful minpaku operators in Japan. Therefore, the agency instructed the company to delete them. Furthermore, many houseowners in densely-populated areas started to accommodate guests for a fee, causing friction in neighborhoods over issues of noise and proper garbage disposal.

Under the Abe government tourism promotion policy, the number of inbound visitors to Japan surpassed the 30 million mark in 2018. The government proclaims that it will increase the number to 40 million in 2020 and 60 million in 2030. The government in its 2015 “white paper on tourism” stressed that tourism-related industries need to become more profitable with productivity improvement in mind.

The Abe government’s move to attract as many foreign visitors as possible is causing serious side effects. In Kyoto, for example, there are many unregistered minpaku operators, land prices are soaring due to the hotel construction boom, and other problems are observed in association with overtourism stemming from the concentration of an excessively large number of tourists in a particular tourist destination.

The urgent need now is to tighten the rules and regulations on minpaku businesses, including regulating this business in densely-populated areas and in apartments, obliging operators to appoint a facility manager for the safety of guests, and disallowing the operation of minpaku businesses without proper consent from neighbors. The government should implement a tourism policy not focusing on profit-seeking activities but benefiting both inbound travelers and local residents.

Past related article:
> Local residents in Kyoto overwhelmed by excessive catering to tourism industry [March 29, 2019]
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