China tourism sets sights on Japan

By BLOOMBERG

TOKYO • Tujia.com, China’s largest vacation rental platform, seeks to boost Japan listings by 10 times in two years as it vies with Airbnb Inc to capitalise on the nation’s tourism boom.

The Beijing-based startup aims to increase the number of properties available for holiday rental to about 100,000 by 2019 from 10,000 now, Tomoko Suzuki, CEO of the Japanese unit, said in an interview in Tokyo. About half of the listings are owned by Chinese investors, she said, adding that Tujia may buy lodgings of its own in the future.

Japan’s home-sharing market is rapidly expanding after the government cleared regulatory hurdles earlier this year and as record tourist arrivals put a strain on the hotel industry. Chinese are bucking tighter capital controls at home to invest in real estate around the world, and Suzuki said Japan’s relatively low land prices will give them an incentive to purchase properties that Tujia can add to its listings.

“Real estate in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto is cheap compared to Shanghai and Beijing, and Chinese interest in property investment is strong,” said Suzuki. Some investors own as many as 100 rooms, sometimes whole apartment buildings, and they lease to local tenants as well as tourists through the Tujia platform, she said.

Visitors to Japan rose 18% to 18.9 million in the first eight months of the year, on course to beat 2016’s record 24 million, Japan National Tourism Organisation data show. The country hosted more than 800,000 Chinese in August alone — the most ever for a single month. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is seeking to attract 40 million arrivals in 2020, the year Tokyo hosts the Olympics.

Tujia charges owners 3% of their accommodation rates, which are typically about ¥15,000 (RM570) to ¥20,000 a night, Suzuki said. The firm arranges more than 56,000 stays a day on a group basis, she said, declining to comment on how many of those are in Japan. The service, which is available only in Chinese, is in seven Asian countries including Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

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