Speaker: Reputation as refuge helped Aspen survive the recession | AspenTimes.com

Speaker: Reputation as refuge helped Aspen survive the recession

Harrison Group Head Shots

ASPEN – Aspen’s reputation of providing refuge for the rich and famous probably helped it ride out the Great Recession and brightens its prospects for recovering more quickly than many other areas, according to a marketing and branding consultant renowned for his research with the ultra-wealthy.

Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, said people of means are feeling beaten up from the economic class conflicts that intensified during the recession. Most are wary that the conflicts will sharpen as the presidential campaign ratchets up.

“People are tired of it. It’s getting worse,” he said. He labels the antagonism “success under siege.”

The antagonism is causing the wealthy to withdraw from their communities, tighten their circle of confidants and spend more time with family, Taylor said. As part of the process of reflecting on their lives, the affluent, like many people, went through a period during the recession where they sorted through their “needs” and “wants,” Taylor said. They determined that vacations are something they need. Now as much or more than ever, they are taking family vacations, often with extended families.

“Family travel is one relief for the recession blues,” Taylor said.

As a result, travel and vacations are “the one place where spending is growing,” he said. Travel is happening even though 60 percent of the wealthy who participated in a survey believe the recession will last at least another year.

Taylor is the keynote speaker Thursday at the 2012 Aspen/Snowmass State of the Real Estate and Tourism Economy Symposium. It will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Doerr-Hosier Center at the Aspen Meadows.

The conference, in its fourth year, is presented by BJ Adams and Co. It’s open to the public. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door. To buy tickets, call 970-922-2111.

Taylor, director of his firm’s annual Study of Affluence and Wealth in America, said his presentation will focus on how Aspen is among the handful of resorts and destinations that can benefit from the current attitudes and actions of the wealthy. The rich want to go where they can feel comfortable, forget the problems of daily life and hang out with similar people, he said. Aspen is one of those places.

“They give them a refuge where their daily lives don’t impose stress,” he said of the vacation destinations.

That bodes well for Aspen’s tourism industry. (June sales tax figures, the latest available, were the highest in 10 years.)

It also bodes well for the real estate market even though many wealthy people are getting “increasingly uptight” about the economy. About 60 percent who participated in a survey said they believe the recession will last at least another year.

“People put their money in a mattress, and they’re not spending it,” Taylor said.

However, 60 percent surveyed also feel that now is a good time to buy real estate. During the recession, many wealthy people decided against second-home ownership and sold or didn’t buy. They felt a vacation home was something they didn’t need. Now, many are changing their minds, Taylor said. That is creating a large demand for homes priced at and above $5 million. Inventories of luxury homes are rapidly shrinking, and the high-end market is “finally going in the right direction,” Taylor said.

Taylor correctly foresaw last year that 2012 would bring a steady economy but no significant growth in most sectors. He is poring over data in preparation for discussing what he sees for 2013 at Thursday’s conference. As of Monday, he saw two possible scenarios on opposite ends of the spectrum. One scenario is a boom during the second half of the year. The other scenario is the “economy really cliffs” by getting dragged down by a variety of possible factors, from war in the Middle East to continued economics woes in Europe.


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