Too early for check-in? No worry, Tokyo cafes offering ‘Airbnb of baggage storage’

Image credit: Ecbo

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Ecbo launched their on-demand Ecbo Cloak service on Wednesday, aimed at travelers looking to find temporary storage for their luggage by employing the unused space of cafes, bike rentals shops and others.

Ecbo CEO Shinichi Kudo

Ecbo was founded by Shinichi Kudo who previously worked at Uber Japan as an intern. The company launched the Ecbo on-demand storage service in June of 2015, and expanding from this, with Ecbo Cloak they begin a new service that incorporates the concept of a sharing economy by finding a use for the idle space in retail stores. The idea for ecbo cloak came to Kudo in Shibuya where he was approached by a traveler to Japan and questioned with, “I’m looking for a coin locker that can store my suitcase.” Lockers capable of fitting a suitcase were scarce or already in use, leading Kudo to the conclusion, unexpectedly, that herein lies a business opportunity.

It is true, travelers can request to store their luggage at the front desk or cloak room of their hotel before check-in time, but making a trip to the hotel solely for that purpose, especially in the middle of the day with so much to take in, is annoying. In the case of vacation rentals such as Airbnb and HomeAway, travelers cannot count on leaving their luggage before check-in or receiving a key. With Ecbo Cloak travelers can leave their luggage in a convenient location at the city center, enjoy the city care-free, and head to their accommodations at their leisure.

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Actually, even in my case, I often leave my suitcase containing my travel necessities in a coin locker at the station when I have appointments in Tokyo before heading to Haneda or Narita (International Airport) or when I have to head to a meeting immediately after returning home to Japan. Here, a problem; when VIPs from overseas like presidents visit Tokyo the use of all coin lockers is suspended in the greater metropolitan area for security purposes. Since Ecbo Cloak is available during the opening hours of the business that collects the luggage, it can be used without having to worry about the above-mentioned case of the coin lockers. Personal identification is required to use the service, and the person responsible for collecting the luggage confirms the user at the drop off, thereby reducing the risk of crime/incidents.

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It is said around 30% of visitors to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics used vacation rentals like Airbnb. And it has already been said that Tokyo, host of the 2020 Olympics, is in overwhelmingly short supply of hotels for such an event, so it is safe to assume the use of vacation rentals will increase further. Additionally, with vacation rentals unable to meet the demands for flexibility by their customers (e.g., early check-in/late check-out), Ecbo Cock is expected to grow into a service that fills the gap between customers and suppliers.

So far Ecbo has received funding from Anri, and employs ten full-time core members, including interns. In addition to expanding into Kyoto and Osaka within the year, they want to offer their service at more than 10,000 stores.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda