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The Japanese government has reportedly announced its commitment to embrace the concept of home sharing as the country gets set to host the 2020 Olympics.
Officials said they would begin a full review of how to reform current rules to help accommodate foreign visitors, Airbnb said in an official blog post on Wednesday. Airbnb noted the measures were announced as part of the Japan Revitalization Strategy 2015, an economic growth blueprint that also includes efforts raise the number of foreign tourists to 20 million annually by 2020.
A weaker yen and easier visa procedures have bolstered Japan's attractiveness as a tourist destination, with the number of foreign visitors increasing a whopping 45 percent on year from January to May, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. The Olympics will likely add to the influx, with the Tokyo metropolitan government estimating the event to bring in 8.5 million tourists, which is more than 2013's total number of visitors.
While Tokyo isn't expected to see an accommodation deficit in 2020 thanks to adequate hotel room supply and traditional options known 'ryokans,' the online community marketplace will undoubtedly be a useful tool, according to Jones Lang Lasalle.
Currently, Japanese legislation does not permit the lease of residential property for less than a month without the approval of prefectural authorities, Reuters said last year. Individuals are subject to hefty fines and even arrests if they don't possess the right permits, making home-rental companies like Airbnb a risky venture.
But easier laws could be a game changer for such firms as more Japanese jump on the sharing economy bandwagon.
"The Airbnb community has already opened their doors to provide a flexible accommodation option for cities that are looking to accommodate big events without having to undertake major building projects, including the the 2014 World Cup …We are delighted they will be able to offer their support in Japan as well," said Mike Orgill, Airbnb director of public policy for Asia Pacific.
There are currently 10,415 active Airbnb listings in Japan, the company told CNBC.
Wednesday's news could also spark interest from Japanese companies to enter the home rental sector. Last year, Reuters reported that the country's largest e-commerce company, Rakuten, was considering launching a website similar to Airbnb.