What better way to highlight Boston as a conference destination than with a traditional New England clambake and an overnight at one of the city's hottest meetings hotels?

The 35 planners who attended Starwood's 3rd Annual Insurance & Financial Planners Summer Event and Education Session at the 793-room Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel in August networked with about 50 representatives from Starwood properties. Educational sessions featured Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, CSP, on e-mail etiquette; and Richard Pescatore, a marketing manager for Amtrak, on how Amtrak is aggressively marketing itself to corporate groups as a transportation option. One example: Amtrak's partnership with Grandluxe Rail Journeys (formerly American Orient Express), which allows private, multicar luxury passenger trains to be attached to regularly scheduled Amtrak trains.

Attendees also received a comprehensive rundown on new Starwood hotels. For small incentive groups, one of the most spectacular is the 43-room Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Elciego, Spain. Located in the Rioja wine region, the hotel's exterior is dominated by a roof wrapped with pink, gold, and silver titanium “ribbon,” an homage by architect Frank Gehry to the surrounding wine country. There's a wine bar, a wine-tasting room, and a spa with 14 treatment rooms that specializes in a variety of “wine therapy” massages and body treatments.

For larger groups, one of many new Starwood options is the Westin Roco Ki Beach & Golf Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Scheduled to open in summer 2008, the 337-room resort has a 20,000-square-foot convention center to accommodate up to 700 people, as well as a Nick Faldo-designed championship golf course.