THE GOLD STANDARD AWARD FOR PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

Sponsored By: Landmark Public Affairs

Winner: Airbnb, Inc.: Airbnb Gets the Green Light in Japan

In June 2017, Japan’s National Diet enacted legislation that gave the green light for Airbnb’s business in Japan. The legislation provides much-needed clarity and certainty for local people who want to earn additional income by sharing their space on Airbnb. As a new business model at the forefront of largely new regulatory hurdles, this major policy success in Japan is instrumental in paving the way forward for home-sharing regulation that is clear, simple and easy to understand while reflecting local needs.

But it came after years of strategic engagement with the Japanese government and the broad home-sharing ecosystem, beginning with the launch of Airbnb’s Japan office in 2014.

In the past 12 months, over five million travellers have used Airbnb in Japan — its largest destination market in Asia Pacific. However, since 2014, it had been operating in a grey area based on an outdated regulatory framework enacted years before the arrival of the Internet.

To get new rules for the new technology, Airbnb drove negotiations forward through community engagement, digital marketing, communications engagement, and local partnerships.

Unique to Airbnb, a community engagement or “Mobilisation” team supports the Airbnb host community in a given market in the form of Airbnb Home Sharing Clubs, which are self-organised groups of Airbnb hosts who want to connect with each other, serve their communities, and support fair home-sharing legislation. This is particularly important in helping a grassroots movement deliver their own compelling messages to government decision-makers.

Airbnb’s digital marketing team provided hosts with digital tools to develop and amplify their own voices online. Airbnb’s digital marketing team used owned media such as Airbnb Citizen, Airbnb’s public policy blog, and developed video and online content with host stories to raise awareness and boost Airbnb’s reputation in Japan. The Airbnb team helped the host community run two campaigns — a Postcard Campaign (December 2016 – January 2017) that helped hosts who could send a message to Diet Members; and an online petition (February – April 2017) for inbound guests to Japan and Japanese hosts. The team also developed advertisements to target key influencers and created educational material for guests on manners and Japanese cultural customs.

The policy communications team held intensive media roundtables with journalists across TV, international media, newswires and newspapers, and gave interviews. In these roundtables, it announced policy tools that highlighted a commitment to responsible home sharing, including the launch of the Neighbour Feedback Tool, where neighbours can share concerns about listings in their community, Airbnb’s support for an accommodation tax in Tokyo, and work liaising with the Japanese police.

One day before the launch of a joint committee on the short-term rentals bill, Airbnb held a press event to announce its support for the bill and other voluntary efforts in collaboration with cities outside Japan. This resulted in positive press coverage across all of Japan’s key national daily newspapers and removed some of the anxiety raised by those who were not initially fully supportive.

In October 2016, Airbnb signed a partnership with Kamaishi City, one of the host cities for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to help Kamaishi revitalise its regional economy through tourism as it continues to recover from the 2011 earthquake. This partnership delivered a strong message that Airbnb is committed to working with cities and extending the benefits of home sharing to atypical tourist destinations.

All of these initiatives helped pave the way for Asia’s first nationwide rules for home sharing.

Japan is one of Airbnb’s ten largest markets in the world and its most popular destination in Asia. The Airbnb community generated $8.3 billion of economic impact in Japan in 2016.

Through strategic engagement with the Japanese government and the employment of innovative communications and lobbying strategies, often unique to Airbnb, its team was able to effectively work with policymakers to push through legislation that is a win-win for Japan and for the Airbnb community.

This national regulatory success in Japan sets a strong precedent for other policy engagement in the region and serves as a key case study for Airbnb globally as well as other companies at the forefront of new business models.

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