Another speaker, James B. Dittman, CITE, of Dittman Incentive Marketing in Edison, NJ, claimed that today's companies ask not whether to build beach Olympics into an incentive program, but whether to hold the incentive travel program at all.

But, he pointed out, in a world where people are often downsized with no warning and corporate loyalty is out, people need to belong, to feel part of something worthwhile. "It's difficult to get a round of applause on the Internet," he summarized.

As people have become more experienced travelers, other speakers said, they want the same variety of choices in incentive travel that they seek in their individual travel. That is, participants want more authenticity, more adventure, and more mental stimulation when they travel today. They are more aware of options and want to learn about new cultures, not just enjoy rest and relaxation.

Puerto Rico's Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Country Club had its chance to impress all 500 attendees of the Insurance Conference Planners Association (ICPA) Annual Meeting when it hosted an evening function during the event.

But two groups of insurance conference planners got up close and personal with the property-one group before and one group after the ICPA meeting (held nearby at El Conquistador Resort).

In addition to a tour of the gleaming new facilities, planners enjoyed meals at some of the 600-room resort's 13 varied restaurants and lounges, sun beside the 150-meter pool, and the mix of Atlantic and Caribbean waters along Rio Mar Beach on Puerto Rico's northeastern shore. Massage appointments gave planners a look at the property's two-level fitness and health center.

Clothing and gift boutiques, a casino, and the Caribbean's largest ballroom (21,500 square feet) connected to a 12,700-square-foot prefunction area will be high on planners' lists of this new property's attributes. Lawns and poolside patios also are available for functions, and the ballroom and 24 separate meeting rooms combine for a total of 48,000 square feet of meeting space.

Two championship golf courses, 13 tennis courts, and a 35,000-square-foot clubhouse with pro shop, locker rooms, and restaurants will serve a group's recreational needs. Or, there's hiking in nearby El Yunque rain forest, trips to Old San Juan, and plenty of water sports to occupy qualifiers.

The Westin Rio Mar is 16 miles from San Juan International Airport.

The year was 1990. Bill Marriott had called his senior management team together. "I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "We can make payroll through April, maybe May. . . . Our 209,000 associates are counting on us, and we can't let them and their families down. It won't be easy, but I'm confident we can turn this thing around. . . . "

Roger Dow, vice president and general sales manager, Marriott Lodging, was in the room that day. The behind-the-scenes story of the financial woes at Marriott Hotels-and its dramatic turnaround-unfold in a new book by Dow and co-author Susan Cook, called Turned On: Eight Vital Insights to Energize Your People, Customers, and Profits (HarperBusiness).

Dow, known to his meetings and incentive clients as a customer-driven kind of guy, and to the business world at large as a popular speaker on customer service, turned to Cook, founder and president of Think Customer, six years ago to get Marriott Hotels back on track. It's just one of dozens of examples in the book of "turned on" organizations, all values-driven, that use eight basic principles to inspire employees and customers, and in turn boost profits.

While the book includes success stories of many well-known business giants, such as Mary Kay Cosmetics and Levi Strauss, there are also tales of less well-known organizations, such as Mid-Columbia Medical Center in Oregon, successful for its caring and humane approach to medicine; and an inner city neighborhood in Oakland, CA that dramatically decreased its crime rate when it turned to community policing.

Here are the eight vital insights to use as a road map to turning on:

* Build a strong foundation

* Make every customer feel special

* Have the courage to set bold goals

* Simplify, simplify, simplify

* Make technology your servant

* Measure well, act fast

* Unleash the power of people

* Lead with care

* As of spring 1996, more than 80 U.S. insurance companies and 40 non-U.S. insurance companies had sites on the World Wide Web, according to the Life Insurance Marketing Research Association (LIMRA). Of the companies that have home pages, the primary reasons for creating them were company name recognition (63 percent), recruiting agents (nine percent), gaining Internet experience (nine percent), generating leads for agents (eight percent), and direct sales (three percent).

* The Life Communicators Association (LCA) is working on creating a designation program. To that end, LCA has mailed a survey to insurance company CEOs, COOs, and senior marketing and communications officers throughout North America, asking them to review suggested course topics and identify other issues or subjects that communicators should know to add value to their companies.

In other LCA news, the association recently released its Strategic Plan. For a copy, contact Terry Birdwell, First Colony Life, at (804) 948-5133. For general information about LCA, contact Peter Bruton, LCA Consultant, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario at (905) 468-5689.

* The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) and the General Agents and Managers Association (GAMA) recently formed the independent MDRT-GAMA Joint Mentoring Council. The eight-person Council, whose purpose is to increase the percentage of new life agents who succeed as career agents, met for the first time in mid-October to outline bylaws. A Joint Mentoring Pilot Study conducted in 1995 by MDRT and GAMA showed that new agents who are teamed with mentors may be more successful. For more information, call MDRT's Susan Gallicho at (847) 692-6378.

In other MDRT news, the average 1996 Round Table qualifier is a 49-year-old male. MDRT's female membership increased by 152 members this year to 2,651 members, representing 14 percent of total membership.

* CEOs at the country's largest publicly held insurance companies earn an average base salary of $811,000 plus median annual incentives totaling $775,000, and long-term incentive pay worth $814,000, according to the Towers Perrin "Insurance Company Executive Compensation Study," which looked at the compensation of CEOs at 25 insurance companies.

* The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies recently released the Special Events Risk Management Handbook, designed for anyone planning a corporate event, from picnics to golf tournaments to circus performances. The handbook helps planners identify vulnerabilities in events of all sizes. For a free copy, call (908) 903-7078.

* Two new publications, both from LIMRA, are available to help insurance companies forge ahead in this era of greater public scrutiny of market conduct. The Business Practices Index is a screening tool designed to help companies contract with only those producers who are most likely to use appropriate sales practices. The tool works by having candidates complete a PC-based questionnaire that touches on their attitudes toward issues such as rule-breaking, disciplining irresponsible behavior, personal honesty, and workplace theft. For information, call Monica Buckley at (860) 298-3961.

Also from LIMRA comes a white paper called "Beyond the Wave-Market Conduct in a Market Sea Change." The paper details changes that insurance companies are making to their selection and training processes, compensation systems, sales materials, and management oversight as a response to cost and competition pressures, including issues of market conduct. This is a followup to 1995's "Market Conduct: A Global Tidal Wave," which encouraged companies to take steps to address market conduct. For information, call Nancy Boynton, the paper's author, at (860) 285-7746.