CCC is the owner of the Tsutaya retail chain, which began as a bookstore in Osaka in 1983. It later introduced the concept of video and CD rental to Japan. CCC's business has grown to include high-end lifestyle complexes such as T-Site, and the T-Point reward card, which it operates in partnership with a number of retailers.
CCC will now work with Airbnb to grow awareness of the San Francisco-based brand in Japan. At a press conference at CCC’s Tokyo headquarters on 27 May, Airbnb co-founder and chief product officer Joe Gebbia said his company would “leverage CCC’s customer base throughout Japan” to promote its brand and “co-create content and services to enhance home sharing, specifically around rural revitalisation”. The presentation marked the first time Gebbia has appeared at an official announcement in Japan.
Initial activities include a promotion at CCC’s flagship T-Site bookstore and entertainment complex in Tokyo’s Daikanyama district, featuring ambient in-store Airbnb branding, a dedicated corner relating to travel and Japanese hospitality, and a sample Airbnb ‘listing’ in the form of an Airstream.
A further in-store promotion is planned at a large Tsutaya outlet at Shibuya Crossing, one of Tokyo’s busiest locations. Other activities include a website jointly created by Airbnb and CCC that aims to educate people about home sharing, and a T-Point reward campaign for newly registered Airbnb hosts.
Airbnb and CCC have worked together in the past for promotional events such as ‘Night At’, a competition to stay overnight at CCC’s T-Site in Shonan.
So what’s in it for CCC? In simple terms, more tourists able to stay in Japan potentially means more spending at CCC and partner retail outlets.
At the conference, Muneaki Masuda, CEO of CCC, pointed to a survey conducted by his company that showed awareness of Airbnb in Japan stood at just 15.9 percent, while a mere 1.6 percent of Japanese people had used it. At the same time, Japan is one of Airbnb’s fastest-growing markets, and Tokyo is one of three cities highlighted in the company’s current global advertising campaign.
With inbound visitor numbers steadily increasing, the country would benefit from more people offering accommodation as hosts on Airbnb, Masuda indicated. That means building better understanding of what home sharing should be.
“The fundamentals of the service are not being understood,” Masuda said. He noted that it should not just be about “renting and leasing rooms” but providing genuine hospitality. The majority of Airbnb listings in Japan are entire properties rather than rooms in a host’s primary residence, and are concentrated in major cities.
For people in Japan to grasp the concept better, Airbnb "needs lots of promotion, and a different type of marketing—you can’t understand it well through a TV commercial. People need to experience it. We want to consider this in a deeper way as a partner going forward.”
Masuda noted that making it possible for more tourists to come to Japan would ultimately benefit CCC’s retail business and the business of its T-Point partners. “We have 200 franchise owners; 100 companies partner with us for T-Card," he said. "Inbound tourism is important for us. We want to propose travel as a lifestyle and promote Japanese-style home sharing. Having Airbnb’s business grow will be to the benefit of CCC.”
Fundamentally though, with its retail and rental business under pressure, CCC is keen to diversify as a developer of social infrastructure. Indeed, it refers to itself as a ‘culture infrastructure company’. In this context, aligning with the growing home-sharing industry makes sense, and Masuda said both companies shared the same values.
Given that home sharing still faces legal challenges in Japan, the brand association carries a degree of risk for CCC. But Masuda was optimistic that the laws would eventually be revised to make home sharing a mainstream service. He compared Airbnb’s situation to his own experience as an entrepreneur.
“When we started [renting CDs] they told me it was illegal,” he said. “Then there was a revision and it became logical. You can’t evaluate Airbnb with the current laws.”