For major Japanese hoteliers, the impending merger between Marriott International Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. signifies the opening of a cutthroat turf war with what will be the world's largest hotel operator in their home territory.

Marriott is poised to expand its business in Japan ahead of Tokyo's hosting of the Olympic Games in 2020, when the government wants to achieve a target of 40 million foreign visitors a year.

"Japan is a very significant market. We hope to expand hotels in Japan," said Arne Sorenson, chief executive officer of Marriott International in an interview with Kyodo News. "I think Japanese travel is growing in a way that is very helpful."