Rakuten to chase Airbnb with turnkey service for landlords
Nikkei -- Nov 29
Rakuten will capitalize on the home-rental trend with a comprehensive support service for property owners, looking to distinguish itself from the more established Airbnb in a growing market set to emerge from a legal gray area.

The Rakuten Stay service announced Wednesday intends to serve as a one-stop shop for landlords looking to rent space to travelers, a practice known as minpaku in Japan. It will offer consulting on rates and property renovation, handle booking, restock toiletries and other essentials and even handle cleaning. Participating properties can be marketed under the Rakuten Stay brand.

The service will be handled by Rakuten Lifull Stay, a vacation-rental joint venture with real estate information website operator Lifull. Rakuten owns a majority in the venture.

"We can guarantee high quality that people expect from the Rakuten brand even with minpaku," Rakuten Lifull Stay chief Munekatsu Ota told reporters.

Rakuten plans to launch an Airbnb-style marketplace in conjunction with legislation slated to take effect in June 2018 that will legalize home rentals nationwide. "We want to popularize legal, safe minpaku," Ota said.

The company faces a formidable rival in Airbnb, which holds a substantial head start with 56,000 listings across Japan. But home rentals in Japan currently are limited to approved properties in deregulation-friendly strategic special zones and those licensed as simple lodgings under existing law -- criteria that many Airbnb listings reportedly fail to meet.

Conversely, Japanese companies, well known for their risk-averse, highly compliant nature, have made little headway in the market. The minpaku legislation likely will finally encourage them to enter the arena, as it is expected to spark a crackdown on unlicensed properties, creating a more level playing field.

News source: Nikkei
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