Panasonic plans to enter the travel accommodation business in Japan in a move that will also serve as a vehicle to market its range of beauty appliances to tourists, according to local media reports.
The electronics giant, which already operates a private housing subsidiary called PanaHome, will reportedly build around 10 short-term rental complexes for visitors in Tokyo and Osaka. It will charge users a nightly fee of 5,000 yen ($45) per person. Hyakusenrenma, a domestic property manager, will manage the lodgings.
While it is understood that Panasonic aims to generate 5 billion yen ($46 million) in sales through the new service by March 2019, a broader aim is to promote appliances from the Panasonic Beauty range, which it sees as having strong growth potential in Asia. A range of products such as hairdryers will be made available for customers to use.
The move follows a law passed in June to recognise and regulate home sharing in Japan. Japan aims to draw 40 million foreign tourists by 2020, but has a shortage of hotels, and the government has acknowledged that short-term rentals offer a solution. Competitors in the sector include Airbnb, Booking.com and Rakuten. The sector is still controversial in the country and the regulation has led to the delisting of a number of private properties from the Airbnb platform in densely populated urban areas.
Jared Braiterman, McKinsey’s former VP of experience design for Asia-Pacific, who is based in Tokyo and San Francisco, described the entry of Japanese companies into the home-sharing space as “very exciting”. He noted that the sector was still not well understood and typically seen as a “foreign” concept, but suggested that the presence of major domestic companies could help it gain wider acceptance.
Panasonic remains the top brand in Japan in terms of consumer perception, according to Campaign's Asia's Top 1000 Brands ranking. Earlier this month, the company launched a design headquarters in Kyoto and a design strategy division in London called Flux.