(Asahi: November 20, 2015 – p. 3)
By Tatsuro Kawai
On Nov. 19, the national government’s Council for Regulatory Reform started considering rules to govern “minpaku” – accommodations where travelers stay overnight in a spare room in a person’s private home or condominium. Various problems have arisen between community residents and minpaku guests, and a proposal has been made to introduce a notification system and a licensing system for the agents and providers of the extra rooms.
The Abe administration aims to expand the number of minpaku as a way to handle the skyrocketing numbers of foreign travelers to Japan. The creation of rules has lagged behind, however, and problems are arising as a result, particularly in urban areas. The Council for Regulatory Reform aims to support the spread of minpaku accommodations and prevent problems by creating new rules that are more relaxed than those in the Inns and Hotels Act.
At the meeting on Nov. 19, the Japan Association of New Economy (JANE), an economic organization proposing to the government that it promote minpaku, presented a provisional calculation that the economic impact of minpaku will be in the range of 1 trillion yen. JANE proposed that the issues encountered so far could be prevented by positioning minpaku as a new service not subject to the Inns and Hotels Act and then requesting the providers of the accommodations to keep lists of their guests and requiring the accommodation agents to submit notifications to the relevant government ministries and agencies.
However, members of the Council for Regulatory Reform wondered “if it is right to not require the people providing the accommodations to register somewhere.” The Regulatory Reform Council will consider creating a notification system for accommodation providers in addition to introducing an agent licensing system that is stricter than a notification system.
It was pointed out that allowing the travelers using minpaku to pay the accommodation charges directly to the room providers leads to issues regarding the fee amount as well as the proper collection of income tax and accommodation occupancy tax. A member of the Regulatory Reform Council said, “Having an agent handle the payment should resolve the tax issue.” The Regulatory Reform Council will consider whether to make it mandatory that fees be paid through an agent.
The suspects in the terrorist attacks on Paris were apparently staying at an extended-stay hotel. With regard to this, Motoyuki Oka, chair of the Council for Regulatory Reform and senior adviser at major trading firm Sumitomo Corporation, said, “Anti-terror measures are absolutely essential.”