Luxury Matters? One in Four Canadians Would Rather Not Travel at all than
Stay at a Budget Hotel

Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express Broadens Your Wealth through Rewards

TORONTO, June 17 /CNW/ - When Canadians get the travel itch, most would like to spend their vacation time in a breathtaking resort in an exotic location. However, few are willing to break the bank to do so. In fact, almost everyone agrees that it's important to stay within budget when planning a vacation. This dichotomy between a taste for luxury tempered with the reality of sticking to a budget is a common theme coming out of a survey conducted on behalf of American Express Canada and Starwood Hotels & Resorts by Angus Reid Public Opinion. Affordable luxury was at the top of Canadians' travel objectives, with 88 per cent saying they look for ways to make their trips luxurious, yet affordable.

The survey finds that the majority of Canadians (82%) feel that the hotel they stay in is important and impacts the enjoyment of their trip, with 39 per cent agreeing that excellent service makes a trip most luxurious. Still, a full 96 per cent of Canadian respondents state that budget is a major concern when it comes to planning trips.

One of the easiest ways Canadians can experience more luxury for less is by utilizing rewards programs like the new Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express that provide extra perks and make luxury more attainable. This new Card offers Cardmembers a chance to earn points towards use on hotel stays and airline travel with their everyday purchases.

Two of Canada's top trendsetters, Ashleigh Dempster and Amanda Blakley, co-founders of The Society, consider loyalty programs, like the Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express, as a smart way to broaden your wealth. These cultural curators provide advice to their community on how to get the most rewarding travel experiences without breaking the bank.

"It's clear from the research, and from our experience, that Canadians have a strong affinity for luxury. They love the idea of being pampered, and that includes when they travel," said Dempster. "What the Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express offers is the ability to earn points on everyday purchases you are already making. These points can then be redeemed through the Starwood Preferred Guest Program for fabulous experiences at some of the world's most luxurious properties."

"And whether you use your points to redeem for an upgraded room, an extra night, a spa treatment or a fantastic dining experience, there's something decadent about receiving luxurious treatment from rewards earned on purchases you make everyday like groceries or your morning coffee," said Blakley.

The survey also found that 83 per cent of people said they would use their points on luxury travel if they were easy to collect and redeem. Additionally, 84 per cent said that if they could travel on points they would do so more often.

"We see a clear indication in this market that Canadians love the idea of rewards programs, but many find that they are too difficult to navigate. With the Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express, we've combined great rewards with ease of use to make the collection and redemption of points as quick and simple as possible," said Jennifer Hawkins, Vice President of New Product Development for American Express Canada.

The survey also revealed that when provided with several choices for their dream holiday destination, more Canadians indicated they would like to go somewhere rich with history, like Italy or Greece (42%), over somewhere tropical like Hawaii or the Maldives (32%) or a city with a lot of action like New York or Las Vegas (7%). But nearly one-fifth (19%) indicated that the place is less important than the experience, and said their dream destination is "anywhere, as long as I'm traveling in style."

"More than a quarter of Canadians surveyed said that they would prefer not to travel at all than to stay at a budget hotel," said David Flueck, Vice President, SPG Global Program and Operations at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. "As the world's largest operator of luxury hotels including the renowned St. Regis and Luxury Collection hotel brands, it's easier than ever for Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express Cardmembers to collect points for a luxury getaway. We know how appealing this prospect is to Canadians due to the overwhelmingly positive response following the launch of this Card."

From a regional perspective, the survey revealed that:

    
        -  Respondents from Quebec are most likely to consider quality of
           food to be what makes a trip most luxurious (46%). Only 26 per
           cent of Ontarians and 19 per cent of Albertans agree.
        -  Albertans go on weekend getaways more than the rest of the
           country, with 39 per cent opting to do so several times a year.
           Atlantic Canadians are least likely to go on a weekend getaway,
           with 77 per cent stating they never or rarely go on one. Ontarians
           fare just above average with 32 per cent of respondents admitting
           to going on weekend getaways several times a year.
        -  More than 1/3 of Quebec residents (37%) would prefer not to travel
           at all than stay at a budget hotel. This is contrast with
           Albertans (18%) and British Columbians (19%) who are less likely
           to limit their travel for this reason.
    

For more information about the Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express, visit www.americanexpress.ca/spg

About American Express

American Express in Canada operates as Amex Bank of Canada and Amex Canada Inc. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of the New York based American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., the largest operating unit of the American Express Company. Amex Bank of Canada is the issuer of American Express Cards in Canada. Amex Canada Inc. operates the Corporate Travel, Travel Services Network and Travellers Cheques divisions in Canada. American Express opened its first offices in Toronto and Hamilton in 1853 and now employs 3,700 Canadians coast-to-coast.

About Starwood Preferred Guest

The SPG program's breakthrough policy of No Blackout Dates at the world's most sought after collection of hotels, reinvented the hospitality loyalty program when it launched in 1999. By creating a program centered on its members, SPG has developed the most passionate and knowledgeable membership base in the hotel loyalty space. Through its use of new technologies and innovative channels such as SPG.com, SPG.com/stayconnected, SPG.com/flights, thelobby.com and others, SPG continues to innovate and lead the industry. By offering No Blackouts on standard rooms at 940 properties, No Blackouts on hundreds of airlines, and once in a lifetime experiences available through SPG Moments, the program has proven to be a big draw for the world's most frequent travellers, and a significant competitive advantage for Starwood. For more information about Starwood Preferred Guest please visit SPG.com or call (877) - STARWOOD.

About Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with 1000 properties in nearly 100 countries and territories with 145,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. Starwood Hotels is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels, resorts and residences with the following internationally renowned brands: St. Regis(R), The Luxury Collection(R), W(R), Westin(R), Le Méridien(R), Sheraton(R), Four Points(R) by Sheraton, and the recently launched Aloft(R), and Element(SM). Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit www.starwoodhotels.com.

SOURCE American Express

For further information: For further information: Danna Barak, on behalf of American Express, (416) 644-2259, dbarak@breespr.com; Jessica Myers, American Express Canada, (905) 474-8792, jessica.myers@aexp.com

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