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American Express Details Market Trends

April 10, 2006 By: Susan Young Travel Agent

At CLIA's cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, Lynn Biggar, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Consumer Travel Network, USA, revealed trends she is seeing in the marketplace. Biggar, who has 2,000 travel professionals reporting to her, said, "more and more, it's all about the experience." Customers want that and agents must become smarter and smarter at delivering that, including unique and customized experiences, she said. Another trend American Express agents are seeing, she said, is that the exotic locations are becoming the "formerly exotic." For instance, places like China and Dubai are becoming more mainstream. Biggar's agents also report strong sales related to family travel and big family groups. Success for the future depends on innovation, Biggar, noting that technology is a way to enable innovation. Luxury travel remains a growing segment of the marketplace she said, noting that there are 16 million affluent customers in the U.S., who have $150 billion to spend on travel each year. Biggar also said agencies always tend to center on baby boomers as the big affluent market, but the ones right behind them, the Generation Xers, will collectively have more discretionary income and resources for the future, creating a huge opportunity for retailers. She also urged agents to "deliver service in whatever channel the consumer chooses to operate in," whether that be online, telephone, email, or a walk-in office, and to "wow" the customer. Finally, she said, 'the customer is fast moving person, so we have to stay ahead" and "deliver the dream."

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