New Rules See Airbnb Cancel Bookings

Online accommodation booking firm Airbnb says Japanese authorities have obliged it to cancel bookings for unregistered properties ahead of the introduction of new rules.

New regulations on privately-owned temporary lodgings go into effect on June 15th. At that point, those running such businesses without registering will be fined. Providers such as Airbnb will be prohibited from listing unregistered hosts.

Airbnb is a leader in the business of matching owners of lodgings with potential guests. It has established a US$10 million fund to compensate affected users by offering full refunds and coupons that can be used on its website.

But tourists are shocked by the company's decision. A tourist from Germany says, "As a tourist, I would not like it on such a short notice. One week before, that's not good." Another tourist from the Philippines says, "Oh wow, oh no. But where are you going to stay? I don't want to be homeless."

The Japanese government says that more than 28 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2017.

Airbnb has 150,000 bookings by year end

The Japan Tourism Agency says Airbnb has brokered about 150,000 bookings for the period from the day new regulations go into effect until the end of this year. The agency suspects most are for unregistered properties. Airbnb has announced that it cancelled bookings for unregistered properties with planned check-in dates from June 15th to 19th. Bookings after that period will be cancelled automatically 10 days before the check-in date.

Major travel agency JTB will help affected users find accommodations if they cannot find suitable lodgings on Airbnb's website.

An official at the Japan Tourism Agency, Nobuhiko Hohokabe, says it's illegal to list unregistered properties, so the agency sent a notice to brokers to make sure they acknowledge the fact. He says there are about 1.5 million rooms at inns and hotels in Japan, so it's unlikely affected tourists will have problems finding accommodation. Hohokabe points out that there are many illegal properties, so the number of lodgings may decline temporarily. He says the agency will support the sound development of the industry of privately-owned temporary lodgings.

The agency says that in the case of Airbnb, there is a wide gap between the number of registered properties and that of properties with bookings. It says it hopes the company will deal with the issue thoroughly, and has offered to cooperate in areas such as helping tourists who have already booked lodgings.

Brokers' response to bookings for unregistered properties

With new regulations on privately-owned temporary lodgings going into effect on June 15th, other online booking accommodation firms are also taking action. They're calling on hosts who have not registered to cancel bookings.

US vacation rental platform HomeAway held a briefing for those listing their properties without registering to swiftly submit their applications. HomeAway also called on those that are unregistered or cannot register by the day to cancel bookings ahead of the introduction of new rules.

The vacation rental platform Tujia, based in China, is also calling on customers that have already booked lodgings with unregistered hosts to change their bookings to registered lodgings. The Chinese broker is considering how to respond to cancellations.

Meanwhile, Japanese vacation rental platform Hyakusenrenma says the lodgings posted on its site have been authorized as budget hotel businesses and are legal.