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Travelers' Aid

The Euro Economy
May 13, 2000

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Of course, one of the best and most popular summer travel destinations is Europe. This summer especially so. The American Society of Travel Agents just released its list of Summer Hot Spots: the most popular destinations world-wide. Topping the list of international trips are four cities in Western Europe: Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid and Dublin. For this week's Travelers' Aid segment, I wanted to take a moment to look at why that is. Why is Western Europe an especially alluring place, especially this year? And while we are on the subject of Europe, last week the euro fell to an all-time low. And that has a lot of travelers confused. How does this whole euro thing work anyway?

The euro became continental Europe's official currency early last year, even though there are still no euro bills, no euro coins. Nothing. The euro's more a concept than anything else, though it does have one important impact. See, back when Germany, France and the rest of them made it the official currency, they all decided what one euro is worth: how many francs equal one euro. How many marks equal one euro. And then they locked that rate in. So no matter what, the exchange rate between the 11 "Euro" countries does not change. So many marks always equal so many francs which always equal so many lira because they're now all linked to the euro.

Unfortunately for the Europeans, what seemed like such a good idea isn't turning out so well now. When the euro debuted last winter, it was worth almost a $1.20. Now, one euro is about 90 cents. What that means is, however many francs and marks you used to get for a $1.20, you now get for about 25 percent less.

To get the answers to these pressing questions, I went to Ellie Turner, a travel agent who specializes in European and other international itineraries.

Luxury hotel rooms in Paris? One hundred dollars cheaper than last year. Tickets to bullfights in Spain? Last year they were $21 each, this year, just $16. A Big Mac is now cheaper in Germany than it is in the United States. So, the bottom line on the euro this summer is that as long as it stays where it is, anywhere in Western Europe is a great place to spend your American dollars.


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