HomeAway ties up with Rakuten to better serve hosts and guests in Japan

From Left: HomeAway’s Japan Head Natsuko Kimura, Rakuten Lifull Stay CEO Munekatsu Ota
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda


See the original story in Japanese.

Rakuten Lifull Stay, a Rakuten Group company offering vacation rental services, and Expedia Group’s HomeAway jointly announced their partnership at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Rakuten Lifull Stay is a joint venture company (JV) between Rakuten (TSE:4755) and Japanese real estate giant Lifull (TSE:2120) with the aim of doing business under the Japanese Home-Sharing Business Act which will be effective January 2018.

Through this new partnership, Rakuten Lifull Stay will procure and supply the properties from “hosts”, while HomeAway will attract visitors to Japan as “guests”. Rakuten Lifull Stay will supply HomeAway with domestic properties to be posted on the company’s up and coming website Vacation Stay (tentative name). HomeAway will utilize the power of their 40 million monthly website visitors to market to visitors of Japan, leading to an expansion of inbound travel demand.

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Rakuten Lifull Stay’s CEO Munekatsu Ota and HomeAway Japan’s Director Natsuko Kimura took the stage at the conference. Ota has previous experience as Rakuten International Travel’s Director and was also a general manager of Rakuten’s New Service Development Company, Sharing Economy Division. Kimura has prior work experience as Expedia’s Marketing Director in Japan.

In the US and other countries, HomeAway specializes in renting a whole house, so it is characterized by the fact that the property is concentrated in rural and resort areas, compared to Airbnb and similar players in the same industry. Additionally, while Airbnb meets the needs of many young people traveling alone, with HomeAway the users are often middle-aged families and group travelers. It is unclear whether Rakuten Lifull Stay and HomeAway will take a similar strategy in the Japanese market, as the demand for the renting accommodations of Japan-bound visitors is concentrated in urban areas.

At the press conference, Kimura explained they are focusing on pull marketing efforts (Showing users personalized results based on their search history on the HomeAway website, driving user traffic from Google ads etc.) for urban areas such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto which are in high demand of renting accommodations while they are also developing push marketing efforts that arouse demand for regions with high visibility. HomeAway introduced their promotion content for the Setouchi area facing inland sea in the western part of Japan, which it offers in 9 languages geared at 10 countries, as an example of such efforts.

In the field of vacation rentals, Airbnb is leading in sales and growth rate both in Japan and the rest of the world, and with HomeAway entering as a subsidiary of Expedia, and cooperating with other OTA (online travel agency) sites, they are actively aiming to acquire other companies in the same industry. In Japan, it can be said that this new alliance will be mutually beneficial for HomeAway, which has the urgent task of acquiring properties and hosts since they are entering the field later than their competitors, and Rakuten Lifull Stay, which needs to newly develop inbound demand from overseas.

Meanwhile, Tujia, a major Chinese vacation rental company, acquired the vacation rental service department of OTA companies Ctrip and Qunar last October. In February of this year, it was reported that Tujia will establish a Japanese corporation and enter the Japanese market in anticipation of the enforcement of Japanese Home-Sharing Business Act.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda