Co to za wakacje, jak trzeba liczyc kazdy grosz :))
Americans Still Flock to Europe as Dollar Drops The New York Times
HEIDELBERG, Germany — A day after Michael Kingsley arrived in this romantic
university town, he was in no mood to savor the cobblestone streets, the half-
timbered houses, or the flower-bedecked windows — to say nothing of the
camera-ready castle on the hill.
Mr. Kingsley had left his camera battery and charger in a hotel room in
London, and he knew that as an American tourist, buying replacements here was
going to sting. The damage: $143. Back home in Falls Church, Va., he said,
the same purchase would have set him back no more than $100.
For Americans visiting Europe this summer, the steep decline of the dollar
against the euro and the British pound has made eye-popping prices a
lamentable part of the traveler’s tale. (The Kingsley family’s hotel room in
London was $500 a night; five bite-sized chocolates at Harrods cost $10.)
“It’s O.K.,” said Mr. Kingsley, 59, with a resigned laugh. “I’ll just have to
work a few extra years to pay off this vacation.” His wife, Laura, did her
best to soothe him. “It’s just play money,” she said.
By now, five summers after the dollar began its long swoon against the euro
and the pound, American travelers are used to $5 cups of coffee and triple-
digit dinner checks in Europe’s great capitals. But the dollar’s latest
plunge — to record lows of 72 cents to the euro and 49 pence to the pound —
has turned mere sticker shock into a form of disbelief for many tourists.
For Kaelon Kroft, a custodian from San Bernardino, Calif., it was the cost of
Coke that shocked him most in Paris. “We just paid 9.50 euros for a can of
Coke at a cafe,” he said. “At our hotel, the bar was serving a glass of Coke
for four euros.”
“That’s over five bucks,” his wife Kristi added. Actually, at the current
exchange rate, it is a fizzy bubble or two over $5.50.
The Krofts and the Kingsleys both scaled back their European holidays to
limit the pain of the currency pinch. But neither family seriously thought of
canceling their vacation, and their glass-is-half-full determination to make
the best of things was echoed in interviews with American tourists from
Ireland to Italy.
It is also reflected in the tourism statistics in France, Germany, Spain and
other countries, which show that the number of Americans visiting Europe has
increased this year, even as the value of the dollar has eroded. Travel
experts say this speaks both to the resilience and rising affluence of
American tourists, as well as to the perennial appeal of Europe as a
“Americans who visit Europe tend to be more educated, with higher incomes, so
they are less affected by the exchange rate,” said Joachim Scholz, a
researcher at the German National Tourist Board. “Even backpackers have more
money than they used to, if you look at the price of hostels.”
Americans purchased $3.8 billion worth of travel-related services from
European countries in the first quarter of this year, a 5.5 percent increase
from the same quarter last year, according to the Bureau of Economic
Analysis. They bought $22.8 billion of travel services in 2006, nearly 10
percent more than in 2002, when the dollar was close to parity with the euro.
That should be a relief to innkeepers and restaurateurs here, since many
currency experts say the dollar — pulled down by the combination of a
persistent trade deficit with the rest of the world, a slower American
economy and an unexpectedly vigorous Europe — has not reached bottom against
Ashraf Laidi, chief currency strategist at CMC Markets in New York, described
the dollar’s decline as “pervasive.” He predicts that it will trade at 70
cents to the euro by the end of 2007. The outlook for Americans in Britain is
better: Mr. Laidi thinks the dollar is close to its nadir against the pound.
Across the Atlantic, the weaker dollar has encouraged a European travel boom
to the United States. And the currency changes are spurring a shift in trade,
with American exports to the rest of the world picking up even as European
officials are becoming louder in their complaints that the cheaper dollar is
undermining the global competitiveness of their manufacturers.
In the last 12 months, the dollar has declined 8.9 percent against the euro
and 9.9 percent against the pound. But the erosion has been most dramatic
over the last few weeks, after many Americans had already booked their
European trips. Most appear to have held on to their bookings.
“A lot of Americans purchase their packages in the U.S., and pay in dollars,
so they don’t even notice,” said Thierry Baudier, the chief executive of
Maison de la France, the French tourism board. “Once they arrive, it’s too
Mark Trotter, a high school teacher from Fresno, Calif., taking 27 students
on a tour of Madrid and Barcelona, said he watched with alarm as the dollar
sank in the last two weeks. But nobody pulled out of the trip, which he leads
each summer, and he said this was his largest group ever.
“I remember doing this trip for $2,100 as recently as 2003,” Mr. Trotter
said, standing beneath the stone columns in Madrid’s main square. “This year
it cost $2,800. But in all honesty, parents don’t even blink.”
To be sure, tourists are making some adjustments to their itineraries or
their spending habits. Paris has increasingly become a weekend destination
for American tourists, Mr. Baudier said, reflecting a trend toward shorter
In Ireland, a group of students from Virginia opted to skip a visit to the
Waterford crystal factory, 100 miles south of Dublin. They are also cutting
back on casual purchases like snacks or coffee.
“I have to be much more aware of looking at the price of everything,” said
Erin Rogers, 21, still marveling at a $22 plate of Irish stew she ordered the
previous evening. “I didn’t have a clear compass of just how weak the dollar
was. It was a crash course in global economics.”
The Krofts decided not to extend their stay in Paris, as they had hoped,
because of the cost. Next year, Kristi Kroft said, their family of four would
probably go to Hawaii or the Virgin Islands, where a dollar is worth 100
Mr. Kingsley, a strategic planner with the Army Corps of Engineers, had
plotted a grand tour of Europe that would have taken him, his wife, and their
33-year-old son, Josh, to London, Paris, Rome and Vienna, before ending up in
Germany, to attend the wedding of a family friend.
As the dollar wilted in recent weeks, Mr. Kingsley crossed off one city after
another, eventually leaving only London and Germany. “I would have loved to
go to Vienna,” Mrs. Kingsley said sadly.
The currency squeeze is toughest on Americans who live in Europe and are paid
in dollars. They suffer from erosion in their real income that, in many
cases, is not fully compensated by their employers.
Jennifer Aquino, who lives in Madrid and manages international alumni
relations for Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., said she felt the pinch
shopping for groceries, paying her rent, or going out to dinner.
“It’s scary,” Ms. Aquino said. “It makes you think twice about if you want to
keep building a life in Europe.”
Maddine Insalaco, who runs a landscape-painting workshop in Tuscany with her
husband, Joe Vinson, said business had been crippled because their costs were
in euros while their revenue was in dollars.