The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is indispensable to eliminate local residents’ concerns in order to develop minpaku private lodging services into sound businesses. It is necessary to review relevant issues to make the services as a means to accommodate more foreign visitors to Japan.
A year has passed since the Private Lodging Business Law (also known as the minpaku law) came into force, which stipulates rules regarding the services.
Before the enforcement, the number of minpaku lodgings rapidly increased due to the appearance of an internet site that connects foreign visitors to Japan and owners of minpaku accommodations. Many such lodgings did not obtain the permission required under the Hotel Business Law.
Now that the minpaku law is in force, those who register with their relevant metropolitan and prefectural governments are allowed to legally operate minpaku businesses. The law also limits the maximum number of business days to 180 per year.
Soon after the minpaku law went into force, the number of registrations was only about 2,000, but it has grown to about 17,000 as of June 7. It could be said that the lower criteria for entering the business than those set under the Inns and Hotels Law will contribute to gradually setting in place minpaku services that comply with the rules.
Many foreign visitors are said to be pleased with minpaku lodgings that are not only reasonable, but also allow guests to experience the Japanese lifestyle. It is hoped that the services will have a positive effect on foreign visitors in deepening their understanding of Japanese culture.
However, the major prerequisite for the spread of minpaku services have not yet been achieved, which is their coexistence with local communities.
According to a survey conducted by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, 95 percent of condominium resident associations’ terms and other conditions prohibit minpaku businesses. A number of residents are reluctant to let many unspecified persons come and go on their premises.
Expand into regional areas
In urban areas, there have been a number of complaints about people staying in minpaku accommodations who make too much noise and violate rules for taking out the garbage, among other points of etiquette.
There also have been many cases in which violators operate minpaku businesses without being registered. Sixteen percent of the accommodations offered on minpaku reservation websites were found to be illegal or suspected of being illegal as of late September last year.
The Tourism Agency has compiled a database of accommodations registered as minpaku and requires operators of intermediary sites to delete illegal lodgings. Cooperation from the private sector is important.
Intermediary agents must be registered under the minpaku law, however, there are unregistered websites based overseas that handle lodgings in Japan. In reality, there is a limit to exercising preventive measures on reservation websites.
In illegal lodgings, there have been many cases in which operators do not comply with rules, such as regularly cleaning the accommodations. Local governments and police need to cooperate to strive to make efforts in monitoring such accommodations to prevent trouble.
Minpaku services are expected to spread into regional areas where lodging is scarce, but under the current circumstances, there are still distinct regional differences.
Tokyo has about 5,800 registered minpaku accommodations, and Hokkaido and Osaka Prefecture both have more than 2,000, but there are only 12 in Akita Prefecture, and Fukui Prefecture has only eight — the lowest of all.
Separate from the lodging services under the minpaku law is a system that allows the operation of accommodations only during periods of special events, such as fireworks shows or other such festivities. It is hoped that measures are sought to link the minpaku services to regional revitalization.