MARRIOTT Corp is a name better known in the US, where it is the largest operator of rooms, than in Asia. Its expansion drive into Asia-Pacific started two years ago and it has since clinched management contracts in several major markets in the region. The expansion comes at a time when the region is experiencing a soft market, with most major cities suffering from a room glut. While Hongkong is well on its way to a solid recovery, other key Asia-Pacific markets are slashing room rates to attract customers while struggling with shrinking profit margins and inflation. Marriott's foray into the Far East begs the question of its timing and whether it will be able to carve a niche in saturated markets. While in Hongkong recently, Marriott senior vice-president Ed Fuller expressed confidence in the corporation's skills and ability to establish itself in its chosen markets. ''We have demonstrated in the past that in any markets we have moved into, we have been able to command a premium rate because of our skills and marketing system,'' said Mr Fuller, adding that those skills had always been transferred to the local staff. He said the company had a lot of faith in Asia and its ability to grow. ''The economy and its industriousness has proven that time and time again,'' he said. Marriott's success in the US was the primary reason the company did not look beyond its own borders earlier. ''We were tremendously successful in the US and chose to invest there. ''Now that we are well-situated, we have gone on to working and focusing our efforts in global markets,'' he said. In the US, Marriott is the largest operator of rooms with lodging operations encompassing more than 640 hotels and 150,000 rooms in all market segments. It is also among the 10 largest employers in the US and the company intends to be visible in the world's major markets. ''Our overall strategy is to be a global operator.'' Mr Fuller said. Two years ago, the company had 16 hotels outside the US. Today, the number of international hotels stands at 42 and is still growing. The company's aggressive development plan is to have 100 hotels outside US by 2000. This expansion will be fuelled primarily by management contracts and franchises for upscale hotels throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America. Mr Fuller believes that the company has entered certain markets at the right time, but admits it might be late in others. ''However, it is important not to be short-sighted as all cities will go through cycles,'' he said. The company's latest acquisition is the Marriott Kuala Lumpur, a 515-room deluxe hotel which is scheduled to open in 1996. Later this year, the company will open a 235-room hotel in Dubai as well as starting construction work on the 436-room J.W. Marriott Jakarta Hotel.