Private housing numbers in Japan plummet with demand lost due to virus

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The number of private properties available for vacation rental in Japan has declined as the pandemic has brought down demand for travel and dashed hopes of an influx of foreign visitors during the Tokyo Games.

As of July 12, there were 18,578 registered vacation rental homes and apartments, up from a peak of 21,385 in April 2020, according to data released by the Japan Tourism Agency.

In fiscal 2020 through March of this year, a total of 1.14 million people stayed in these private dwellings, down 77% from the previous year.

Private accommodation, or minpaku, have drawn attention since a law legalizing them entered into force in June 2018 to address the lack of hotel rooms in a context of booming inbound tourism.

Prior to the global spread of COVID-19 from early 2020, concerns had grown over the housing shortage during the Tokyo Games, especially in Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities, leading to an increase fast registered private accommodation. several hundred units per month.

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, originally scheduled for summer 2020, have been postponed for a year due to the pandemic. The decision to hold the Summer Games mainly without spectators to prevent the spread of the virus has hit private accommodation operators.

Of the 289 operators who reported their businesses shutting down from September to October 2020 and responded to a survey, 49% said they could not expect to make any profit.

With the disappearance of foreign tourists, minpaku’s main customers, operators see no sign of a recovery in tourism demand.

The government’s Go To Travel subsidy campaign for domestic tourism has been on hold nationwide since December 28 due to the virus.

Some local governments have their own travel discount campaigns, but these are limited to hotels and hostels and do not cover private accommodation.

The government plans to conduct an investigation by March next year into the vacation rental usage and management system, with a possible overhaul of the accommodation system for a post-pandemic tourism recovery. .

The elements to be considered by the envisaged review would include legal restrictions, such as limiting the accommodation offered by private accommodation to 180 days per year.

While vacation rentals allow for longer stays at lower prices than hotels and hostels, they also use vacant rooms and homes in areas of Japan that are experiencing declining populations.

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