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Stressed out Americans would be better spending their money on a holiday to New Zealand than resorting to therapy to make them feel better, according to a study

Air New Zealand today released what it called a "ground-breaking study" it had commissioned from former Nasa scientists.

The study measured the psychological and physiological effects of taking a holiday in New Zealand.

The airline said the study revealed new insights into what would attract "well-heeled" Americans to take a break down-under.

Air New Zealand group general manager international airline Ed Sims said the study showed a New Zealand holiday was better value than a session with the therapist.

"We believe we've found a rich seam of potential customers looking to escape the rat race.

"Americans spend an estimated US$8.5 billion ($12.5 billion) annually on self-improvement and anti-stress treatments including personal coaching, weight loss and stress management - and that's a market expected to grow to more than US$11 billion by 2008.

"Our pioneering study suggests that money spent on this compulsive search for well-being could be better invested in holiday time in New Zealand."

Mr Sims said Americans were similar to New Zealanders - "they are their own worst enemies when it comes to taking leave".

The study - the Vacation Gap - was conducted by former Nasa scientists at Alertness Solutions, who employed equipment and techniques previously only used to analyse the effect of travel on astronauts and pilots.

"What the Vacation Gap study revealed are new opportunities for New Zealand to market itself to Americans looking to escape their hectic lives ..."

Approximately 9 per cent of visitors to New Zealand come from the US.

"We can't afford to sit back and wait for the next The Lord of the Rings to transport Americans by screen to New Zealand," Mr Sims said.

- NZPA