STARWOOD SUCCESS FORMULA Juergen Bartels, CEO, Hotel Group, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, met with Boston-area press representatives in August, laying out the keys to Starwood's future success: renovation and training.

As guests dined on chardonnay-poached lobster and beef tenderloin in the newly renovated Constitution Ballroom at the Sheraton Boston Hotel & Towers, Bartels reviewed some highlights of Starwood's worldwide portfolio: New York's Essex House, whose management contract was won by Westin; Singapore's Westin Stamford, the world's tallest hotel (which, at 2,100 rooms has enjoyed 80 percent occupancy for the past 12 years); and the W Sydney, opening at the end of this year.

"The future of a hotel company depends on eternal renovation and eternal training," said Bartels, who is based at the company's headquarters in White Plains, N.Y.

Demonstrating that Starwood is willing to make those investments, Bartels said that this year the company poured $800 million into property renovations, while other owners spent $700 million, for a total of $1.5 billion spent on Starwood hotels around the world. Guest room redesigns, he noted, were done in consultation with customers. Customer comments were also at the heart of Starwood's revamped Preferred Guest Program. The most popular change: No blackout dates.

In what has become his signature way of showing appreciation for the customer, Bartels got down on one knee in front of each woman in attendance and presented her with a white rose.

In a question-and-answer period, Bartels said the company's salespeople have been given new incentives for passing leads to their fellow Starwood properties in an effort to get the formerly separate brands working together. Starwood has 2,000 salespeople on-property and 250 in global sales offices.