New minpaku laws decidedly unpopular in Kyoto City

As at the end of August 2018, Kyoto City had only received 129 applications for short-term letting under the new minpaku laws that were introduced in June. Of those, 33 are located in exclusive residential zones where properties can only be rented out to guests for a maximum of 60 nights between January 15 and March 15, with some exceptions allowed for traditional machiya townhouses and homes where the host also lives on the premises. This pales in comparison to the total number of 7,028 applications made nationwide. In Kyoto Prefecture, excluding Kyoto City, only 18 applications have been received as at September 14.

As it turns out, hosts of eligible properties are putting their efforts towards obtaining hotel licensing. Licenses for simple lodgings, hotels and ryokans under the Inns and Hotels Act reached the highest level in history with 109 permits granted in July, and a total of 403 permits granted between April and August. For simple lodgings, the city had issued licenses to a total of 2,627 properties as at the end of August, a 7-fold increase from 5 years ago. Although requirements for a license are much stricter than the new minpaku registration system, they allow operators to run the property year-round, rather than being hit with a 180-day annual limit.

Traditional machiya townhouse lodgings have been growing in popularity ever since the city relaxed the rules requiring a front desk in each property. Five years ago the number of machiya accommodations were in the double figures. As at the end of September, there were 597 machiya with simple lodging licenses throughout the city.

Not everyone has been following the rules, however. The city conducted an investigation into potential illegal accommodation facilities between April 2016 and August 2018, identifying 2,259 infringing properties. Of those, 1,845 have already suspended or ceased operations. 122 hosts have been issued warnings, but continue to operate illegally, making it likely that the city will consider a more severe response.

Of the 4,729 listings for private accommodation in Kyoto City advertised through 8 of the major overseas booking sites, only 2,685 have been confirmed by the city as operating legally and with the correct permissions. The city has so far confirmed that 330 listings are illegal.

Tourists, both domestic and foreign, to Kyoto Prefecture spent a total of 1,497,200 nights in the month of June, up 1.6% from June 2017. Approximately a third of the visitors were foreign tourists, with a 16.8% increase from last year.

A pamphlet from the Kyoto City Assembly Members of the Japanese Communist Party delivered to homes in the city providing advice for residents concerned about minpaku and simple-lodging accommodation in their neighborhood.

Sources:
The Kanko Keizai Shimbun, September 20, 2018.
The Sankei Shimbun, September 20, 2018.
NHK, September 19, 2018.
The Kyoto Shimbun, September 18, 2018.