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Tapping Into The Booming Asian Affluent Market


Understand Individual Expectations To Tap Booming
Asian Affluent Market Says American Express

Inside the Affluent Space survey provides insights for New Zealand tourism

Queenstown, 29 June 2006 - In the midst of the 2006 Lindauer Queenstown Winter Festival, tourism operators in the resort are learning how to tap into booming Asian affluence.

The insights are being shared by global financial and travel services company American Express, which is celebrating its 15th year of support for Queenstown and its iconic winter festival.

New "Inside the Affluent Space' research from American Express says definitions of luxury in Asia are evolving, with a new generation of "well-heeled' being more eclectic in how they seek to enjoy the trappings of their success.

"The lesson for operators at the high-end of the tourism industry is to avoid assumptions at all costs," the American Express Country Manager, Rob Hennin, said today.

"A decade ago tourism from Asia tended to be defined by the "tour group' phenomenon: 40 people in a coach on a whistle-stop journey to do little more than take photographs of sheep and go back home.

"A consequence is a legacy whereby tourists from Asia today can be mistakenly viewed homogenously. Our research reinforces that there are important differences between individuals and between different markets in Asia and that these differences need to be recognised in order to deliver an experience that will support growth into this lucrative market," Mr Hennin said.

There are over 47 million affluent individuals in Asia Pacific and it is expected by 2008 that number will have increased to over 53 million - representing nearly US$12 trillion in wealth. Millionaires in Asia Pacific number more than 1.8 million, representing a quarter of the total population of millionaires worldwide.

Currently tourists from Asia currently account for around 20 percent of visitors to New Zealand by number. Spend from visitors from key Asian markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan tends to be higher than the overall average spend.

Mr Hennin said that New Zealand tourism had a significant opportunity to grow those numbers and benefit from the affluence boom in the region "but must be clever and innovative in the way it markets the country and, more particularly, how it delivers on the marketing promise."

Findings from the American Express Inside the Affluent Space research in Singapore and Hong Kong suggested that the affluent were particularly wary of hype and more likely to be influenced by "word-of-mouth'.

"Importantly, the wealthy are open to being a communication channel in their own right. More than the traditional trappings of wealth, they actively seek stories to relate that reflect well on themselves as individuals rather than just reflecting on what they are able to afford."

"That influences both their purchasing and travel decisions," said Mr Hennin.

"For example, owning an item from a prestigious brand is no longer enough. Neither is holidaying in New Zealand just for the sake of it.

"Owning an item, but being given the experience of a one-on-one tour of the factory where the item was manufactured will turn a customer into an ambassador for the brand. This can be adapted in the New Zealand market by promoting tailored experiences such "meet the maker' activities at wineries or with artisans such as carvers and jewellers.

"Delivery of the experience, however, needs to be genuine, personalised and the relationships that are established must be followed through."

Mr Hennin said he supported the recent call for more five-star accommodation facilities, but cautioned that if individual needs were not recognised "beyond providing large rooms and a nice bed" the industry would fail to deliver on its potential.

Specific insights from Hong Kong:
- Discovery is the "new luxury'
- Flashiness is out - subtlety is in
-New sophisticated eyes see luxury in everyday life
- Inner wealth is the new asset of the affluent
-Time isn't money, it's gold

Specific insights from Singapore
- Talk-value is the "new luxury'
- Passion has no price
- The new definition of exclusive is "Made Just for Me"
- The ordinary is precious too
- Privilege is not having to think

American Express has briefed Destination Queenstown on the insights and will also make the information available to its merchant partners and to Tourism New Zealand for distribution to interested parties.

- media release ends -

BACKGROUND: About American Express Inside the Affluent Space

American Express Inside the Affluent Space research is a natural extension of American Express' brand promise to deliver world class service with personal recognition and a way for the Company to share its own expertise, as the premiere service provider to the affluent consumer.

Inside the Affluent Space involves an ongoing series of intimate group and one-on-one conversations with affluent consumers and leading merchants, as well as American Express' own internal Private Bankers, Membership Travel Services and Personal Concierge staff who have relationships with thousands of affluent consumers. The conversations seek to delve into the changing lifestyle attitudes, behaviours, and expectations of affluent consumers. The outcome is insights to help merchants identify trends and opportunities to better meet the needs of their most demanding customers.

The conversations focus on four main areas of emerging expectations, which result from the significant growth of the affluent in the Asia-Pacific region:
- Attitudes toward traditional and non-traditional affluent lifestyles
- Perceptions of luxury
- Definition of "exclusivity"
- Meaning of "the best"

The conversations focus on the tangibles of an affluent lifestyle - the objects, the transactions, the categories, the costs. However, the conversations also seek to engage affluent consumers on the intangibles too - the values, the meaning and the emotions of the affluent lifestyle.

In each market, the learning from these engagements, along with relevant quantitative data, is being synthesized into a conversation report titled "Insights into the Affluent Space". As appropriate, American Express will also tie together regional threads that connect insights across the Asia-Pacific Region and will share these as well.


About American Express
The American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travellers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking.

ENDS

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