Marriott International and Rakuten Travel have signed a Direct Connect Agreement that will enable Japanese travelers to check room inventory in real-time and rates in Marriott International's 4,300+ hotel portfolio, as well as to book hotel rooms online on their smart phones or digital devices. The strategic partnership will commence in the first quarter of 2016. "Japan is a very important market for us and we are thrilled to reach such a significant partnership distribution agreement with Rakuten Travel," said Peggy Fang Roe, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Marriott International, Asia Pacific. "Rakuten Travel deeply understands the buying behavior of Japanese travelers, particularly online and that is a big focus for us. Our desire is to partner with those who are passionate about their consumers and have the same mission that we do to create a seamless global travel experience. With 19 Marriott International brands, including JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Hotels, and over 4,300 hotels available through Rakuten Travel, Japanese travelers will see a major increase in the number of rooms they can book through Rakuten Travel." "The agreement exemplifies Marriott International's continued efforts toward the creation of a holistic and effortless online- and mobile-powered travel experience for our guests. We aim to connect Japanese travelers with our hotels around the world and aspire to be the favorite global brand for Japan's tens of millions of travelers, who are looking to travel inside and outside of Japan." Ms. Roe added. Rakuten Travel is one of Japan's largest and most successful online travel platforms and is part of the renowned Rakuten Group with more than 100 million members across the nation. More than 1.8 million room nights are booked per month through the Rakuten Travel online portal, reflecting strong demand from Japanese travelers who make their travel arrangements online. Takanobu Yamamoto, President of Rakuten Travel said, "Marriott International is a strategic fit for our group as the number of Japanese travelers exploring the world continues to grow. We are very excited that our customers will be able to have direct access to the worldwide room inventory of Marriott International, one of the world's largest lodging companiesy'm not sure what "international hospitality group means. We understand what our members are looking for through their consumer behavior and booking preferences, and work to provide the best hotel choices for them. With the strategic partnership with Marriott International, we are able to offer more travel and booking options than ever before to our customers. This will not only boost customer satisfaction and attract more bookings but also ultimately strengthen our travel business as a whole." Rakuten Travel with its innovative travel solutions has made travel planning more convenient than ever for Japanese travelers. Rakuten Travel offers a wide range of hotel options and enables users to book hotels and hostels worldwide. According to the study conducted by Phocuswright Japan1, the annual sales for online travel booking in the Japanese market in 2013 was JPY 2.9 trillion, which has increased by 23% compared to that in 2011. The online sales for travel package now account for 33% of total travel sales in Japan. The study indicates that the increasing number of Japanese consumers will go online to make travel bookings, thus online travel booking is likely to uptrend in coming years. Related Link: Rakuten Travel