While the sharing economy in Japan may have gotten off to a relatively slow start, make no mistake, it is about to take off, with some of the biggest names in the industry leading the way. Just a week after vacation rental service Rakuten LIFULL STAY was launched by Rakuten and LIFULL Co., the service today announced it would collaborate with HomeAway, Inc., one of the world’s largest vacation rental sites.

Under the new agreement, Rakuten LIFULL STAY will provide its “Vacation Stay” property listings in Japan to HomeAway, while HomeAway will promote travel to Japan through its platform. “By listing our properties on the HomeAway site, we will be able to expand the number of visitors to Japan and attract more visitors to the rural areas of the country,” said Munekatsu Ota, Representative Director of Rakuten LIFULL STAY.

The collaboration is an indication of the current momentum behind the now-$100 billion global home-sharing industry. A recent Consumer Reports study says almost 75% of respondents to their survey indicated they would be open to trying home-sharing as a way to experience local culture. And following last month’s passing of the Private Lodgings Business Law in Japan, which finally clears the way for operating vacation rental services in one of the world’s largest, yet most crowded accommodations markets, the industry is getting another massive boost.

The growth in the global home-sharing industry coincides with massive growth in the numbers of visitors to Japan. Since 2010, the nation has seen 20% year-on-year growth and become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, welcoming 24 million visitors in 2016. With Japan set to host two of the world’s most prominent sporting events within the next few years – the World Cup of Rugby in 2019 and the Summer Olympics in 2020 – its popularity as a destination is likely to continue.

Munekatsu Ota, Representative Director of Rakuten LIFULL STAY poses with HomeAway Japan Country Manager, Natsuko Kimura.

Representative Director of Rakuten LIFULL STAY Munekatsu Ota (right) with HomeAway Japan Country Manager Natsuko Kimura at the launch of the partnership.

The Japanese government is bullish on the trend and continues to tout ambitious growth targets – 40 million visitors per year by 2020, 60 million per year by 2030. But the question of where everyone will stay is an open one. The surge in tourists has put a strain on local accommodations providers, who in 2016 saw occupancy rates for hotels in Tokyo hit 79.4%, while Osaka reached 84.1% – both on par with leading international tourist hubs such as London and Paris. Consequently, businesses and bureaucrats alike are having to come up with creative solutions to the problem. Despite reports suggesting Japan may employ an armada of cruise ships to handle an expected surge in visitors during the Olympics, home and vacation property rentals certainly seem to be the more practical, sustainable, and market-driven solution – and Rakuten LIFULL STAY, in partnership with HomeAway, is in a good position to help.

As one of the market leaders in home-sharing, HomeAway has a massive user base and more than 2 million property listings located in every corner of the globe. Rakuten LIFULL STAY’s inventory of Japan properties will join listings on the platform from many other countries, including the U.K., France, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil.