「民泊」のルール 安全管理と地域の理解が要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Safe management, local understanding needed for running ‘minpaku’ facilities
「民泊」のルール 安全管理と地域の理解が要る

The so-called “minpaku” business of using rooms in private homes or at condominiums to accommodate tourists, in place of hotels, is growing.

Such services may be convenient as inexpensive lodging for foreign tourists, whose number has soared recently. But they are also causing problems between service users and local residents. It is necessary to expedite efforts to draw up relevant rules.

The Inns and Hotels Law stipulates that it is mandatory for operators of accommodations to obtain permission from local governments when accepting paying guests repetitively. An enforcement ordinance also sets standards for the size and structure of facilities to ensure hygiene and safety of accommodations. Rooms used as minpaku facilities are, in theory, subject to the law.

Yet the number of rooms rented as minpaku facilities that have not obtained official licenses is rising sharply, particularly in urban areas, due to the shortage of hotels.

Some business operators act as online go-betweens for people who want to rent empty rooms and tourists seeking places to stay. The number of registered properties using these services exceeds 20,000 in Japan. Yet most of these properties are believed to be operating without licenses.

The current state of affairs should be improved as local governments cannot keep up with overseeing the growing number of such business operations.

With the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for 2020, the central government — which aims to make Japan a tourism-oriented nation — has established a panel of experts, tasked with studying how minpaku services should be offered. While reviewing the Inns and Hotels Law, the panel will also consider the possibility of establishing new provisions.

It is important to make minpaku facilities places where tourists can stay with a sense of security.

Ward offers good example

In creating rules for minpaku facilities, efforts made by Tokyo’s Ota Ward, where Haneda Airport is located, serve as a useful example.

Utilizing the government-designated national strategic special zone system, which exempts certain types of accommodation facilities for foreign tourists from adhering to the Inns and Hotels Law, the Ota Ward government has put into effect an ordinance to permit the operation of minpaku facilities. The ward will become the first special zone of this kind in Japan next year.

In the special zone, individuals can rent rooms to tourists who plan to stay long term for seven days or more at their minpaku facilities. Such restrictions are designed so that minpaku facilities will not adversely affect the operations of hotels and ryokan inns.

The Ota Ward government plans to limit the area where minpaku facilities can operate to one where the construction of hotels and ryokan inns is permitted, in accordance with the Building Standards Law. The ward will also ask minpaku facilities operators to keep a copy of their guests’ passports to prevent such facilities from becoming hotbeds of crimes or terrorism.

All these measures are deemed necessary in operating such facilities in the area. Yet a number of challenges remain.

Local residents may feel uneasy about seeing foreign strangers come and go from condominiums or private houses in their neighborhood.

The ordinance makes it mandatory for operators of minpaku facilities to inform nearby residents of their business plans in advance and enables ward government officials to make on-site inspections. We wonder how effective such measures would be.

Some grievances have been voiced by residents living near currently operating minpaku facilities over the ways tourists take out their garbage and the noise they make.

To prevent friction from occurring in neighborhoods, minpaku operators should ensure their facilities are managed safely.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 9, 2015)

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