Airbnb cancels thousands of reservations in Japan amid rule change

Airbnb created a fund to assist travelers negatively impacted by Japan's new law limiting home-sharing. Photo credit: Getty Images/SeanPavonePhoto

Airbnb has been forced to cancel thousands of bookings in Japan made through its service following an abrupt change to its law limiting home-sharing in the country. Japan’s new law, passed last year, requires Airbnb hosts to register their listings and display their license numbers by June 15 or they will be unable to let rooms.

But the Japanese government issued a sudden announcement on June 1 instructing any host without a license number to cancel upcoming reservations that were booked before June 15—even though many of these hosts are actively engaged in the registration process or awaiting their license.

As a result, Airbnb released a statement that the company has been forced to cancel every upcoming reservation made by a guest between June 15 and June 19 with any hosts who lack the required license. But it doesn't end there. According to the statement, going forward, unless the government reverses its position, Airbnb will automatically cancel and fully refund any reservations at listings in Japan that have not been licensed within 10 days of guest arrival.

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The home-sharing company also set up a $10-million fund to cover expenses for travelers expected to arrive in Japan who are now without accommodation.

At the end of May, Airbnb claimed it had roughly 60,000 listings in Japan. According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, the number of listings in the country has fallen to an estimated 13,800.

“We are incredibly sorry. We know this stinks—and that’s an understatement,” a statement from Airbnb reads. “Through no fault of their own, some guests will spend extra money to secure new accommodations and may have other additional expenses, such as flight change fees. To support and protect our community, we’ve created this fund to cover unexpected and unavoidable additional expenses based on this sudden development.”

Airbnb also is issuing full refunds to all travelers facing canceled stays on or after June 15. These guests will also receive a $100 coupon for future Airbnb stays.

It was just last year that Japan legalized home-sharing on the condition that hosts register their property with local authorities. The country is likely preparing for upcoming events such as the 2020 Summer Olympics, and its decision to regulate Airbnb ahead of time may pay off in the near future.

While Airbnb has said it was working with its hosts to register in time for the June 15 deadline, the new policy from the Japanese government is leaving travelers and hosts scrambling to come to a resolution.

However, according to HuffPost Japan, the government in central Tokyo claims to have only received 40 requests for licenses since June 5, and only five of these have been accepted. Reasons for rejection include the need to notify neighbors of a home-sharing listing, or compliance with safety codes.