The executives at Westin Hotels and Resorts know how to listen, and they also know how to talk. The talk this year at the company's annual Insurance Advisory Board was positive and confident, leaving little doubt that Westin, like other major hotel chains, is riding high as strong demand for rooms and meeting space drives up occupancies and rates in this mid-1990s seller's market.

Don Welsh, vice president, sales and marketing, and Patti Mottolese, director, insurance market development, were among the Westin leaders who hosted ten insurance planners and Insurance Conference Planner magazine for a two-day advisory board meeting in August at The Westin La Paloma in Tucson. The event, now in its fifth year, brings Westin together with its insurance customers to talk openly about the company's strengths and weaknesses, the result being a to-do list that suggests ways for Westin to improve its product and its sales process.

The meeting also updates planners and suppliers on changes at board members' companies, individual Westin properties, and corporate headquarters. From the corporate level, Welsh reported on Westin's active growth, a new course for the company since

Juergen Bartels took over as chairman and CEO in May 1995. He cited Westin alliances with Prince Hotels and Demeure Hotels; technology improvements, including a new central reservations system; a new advertising campaign (the board reviewed television ads and shared their reactions); and a long list of upcoming conversions and openings, including the Westin Rio Mar Resort, now open in Puerto Rico.