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Airbnb lobbies local Japan governments to ease curbs for Olympics

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By Reuters
Airbnb lobbies local Japan governments to ease curbs for Olympics
FILE PHOTO: A view of the Olympic stadium from Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan, October 31, 2019. Picture taken October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Matthew Childs   -   Copyright  Matthew Childs(Reuters)

By Junko Fujita

TOKYO (Reuters) – Airbnb Inc said on Tuesday it is lobbying local governments in Japan to ease curbs on short-term home rentals during next year’s Tokyo Olympics, seeking to counter a thicket of rules imposed last year.

Japan’s short-term home rental market plunged after Japan introduced a law requiring hosts to register with local governments and imposing other restrictions that prompted many to drop the service.

Airbnb Japan country manager Yasuyuki Tanabe said the San Francisco-based company would seek tie-ups with local governments, asking them to craft exemptions to the rental curbs during next year’s Games.

The company expects to reach agreements with partnerships with some local government in the Kanto area around Tokyo, but Tanabe did not name any.

Airbnb on Monday announced a nine-year partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to provide accommodation for the world’s biggest sporting event and cut the cost for host cities.

The partnership runs from the Tokyo 2020 Games next year until 2028 and covers five Olympics and Paralympics events.

The deal is worth $500 million, the Financial Times reported, citing people briefed on the matter. Tanabe declined to provide any forward-looking numbers at a Tokyo news conference.

The Japanese government exempts short-term rental hosts from the national law when demand for accommodation is expected to jump because big events. Local governments are authorized to run the service.

Airbnb used those exemptions during this year’s Rugby World Cup in the city of Kamaishi and four other places, which saw guest arrivals spike by 135% from a year earlier, the company said.

“There aren’t many events as exciting as the Olympics,” Tanabe said. “We have many ways to participate in this event, but one way is to become a host for short-term stay.”

Japan’s temporary lodging law limits home sharing to 180 days a year, a cap that hosts say makes it difficult to turn a profit. It leaves final decision-making up to local governments, many of which have imposed even stricter rules, citing security concerns.

Airbnb’s listings plummeted just before the law went into effect. Airbnb would not say how far its numbers had fell from the pre-law high of 62,000, but a week before the law kicked local governments approved just 150 listings.

Airbnb said its listings have rebounded to 90,000.

(Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by William Mallard and Gerry Doyle)