Photo: Owners signing up for the service will be able to market their properties using the “Rakuten STAY” brand, which includes design concepts for rooms.

Just six months remain until what promises to be one of the biggest shake-ups ever to hit Japan’s accommodation industry, as a new law passed this year legalizing room-sharing – so called minpaku, or vacation rentals – goes into effect in June. Companies and property owners alike are racing to prepare for the change and Rakuten is leading the way.

Having already announced the formation of Rakuten LIFULL STAY, a joint venture with LIFULL Co., Ltd., to operate a listing service for vacation rentals, Rakuten has now taken another step to support potential property-renters with the launch of Rakuten STAY, a new service offered in tandem with Rakuten LIFULL STAY.

Munekatsu Ota, Rakuten LIFULL STAY Representative Director, Kazunori Takeda, President of Life & Leisure Company, Rakuten, Inc., and Takashi Inoue, President of LIFULL, Inc., at the press conference announcing the launch of Rakuten STAY.

Munekatsu Ota, Rakuten LIFULL STAY Representative Director, Kazunori Takeda, President of Life & Leisure Company, Rakuten, Inc., and Takashi Inoue, President of LIFULL Co., Ltd., at the press conference announcing the launch of Rakuten STAY.

Rakuten STAY aims to reduce the barriers for property owners to enter the vacation rental market, while simultaneously offering peace of mind to prospective guests by building trust in the fledgling industry. The service will offer property owners consultations on preparing their properties for rental, including how much to charge, necessary renovations and branding.

“The concept [for the service] is to guarantee the quality of the vacation rental or shared accommodation properties, specifically the facilities, amenities and service level,” explained Kazunori Takeda, managing executive officer of Rakuten, speaking at the press conference announcing the new service.

Owners signing up for the service will be able to market their properties under the “Rakuten STAY” brand. And the service won’t end there. Rakuten STAY will also handle the listing of properties on vacation rental platforms, including those to be run by Rakuten LIFULL STAY. It will also handle customer interaction, restocking of toiletries and other essentials such as cleaning.

Rooms will also be equipped with a variety of Rakuten STAY branded amenities.

Rakuten STAY-branded rooms will be stocked with specially-designed amenities.

Customers, meanwhile, will benefit from the understanding that properties bearing the Rakuten STAY branding have met stringent requirements of quality, safety and customer service.

“Our mission is to promote the development of safe and legal vacation rentals,” commented Munekatsu Ota, representative director of Rakuten LIFULL STAY.

For Rakuten and Rakuten LIFULL STAY, Rakuten STAY represents the beachhead in a long-term business strategy. Future plans include expanding the Rakuten STAY service to cover a wider variety of accommodation, such as rooms in private homes and apartment blocks. The two companies also aim to promote the concept of “staying in a city,” where all the Rakuten STAY properties in a local area would be connected around a central “hub.” The hub would act as a reception desk for guests staying in the area, and provide meals, advice on local attractions and other services. In this way, the area itself would be operated as one single accommodation facility.

With Tokyo set to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020, Japan’s decision to legalize vacation rentals came not a moment too soon. Rakuten and Rakuten LIFULL STAY look forward to leading innovation in this rapidly evolving industry.