Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Stronger Dollar Heightens Lure of Overseas Vacation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Stronger Dollar Heightens Lure of Overseas Vacation

Article excerpt

NEW YORK _ Imagine visiting the same vacation spot as you did last year, only to find that eating out costs 30 percent less, hotel rates have plunged and the expense of traveling there is down 25 percent.

Think Paris, London and Milan.

Thanks largely to a sharp increase in the value of the dollar, the cost of vacationing in Europe has plummeted, and industry experts predict the savings will lure American tourists in droves this summer.

Strengthened by economic stagnation abroad and currency devaluations by European governments, the dollar has surged by up to 40 percent against European currencies from lows reached last September. In the past two weeks, the dollar has rallied an additional 5 percent to 7 percent to its highest levels since mid-1991.

That means American travelers will pay about 45 percent less for dinner in Rome compared to last September's prices. And they'll sleep in tourist class hotel rooms that cost about $70 a night, compared to $100 last summer.

In Madrid, a meal with wine at a leading restaurant costs about $55, down from $70.

Luxury seekers in London can stay at the Dorchester Hotel for less than $400 a night including breakfast, compared with $542 last September. They can celebrate the savings by downing a mug of British beer for $2.25 _ about 75 cents less than last year.

In Finland, once one of the most expensive European destinations, a dollar now fetches about 50 percent more than it did last summer. A light meal and beverage in Helsinki's cafes and sandwich shops runs about $5. A one-week vacation in a farmhouse in the Finnish countryside including meals costs as litle as $345 a person.

As the rise in the dollar has driven down the cost of hotel accomodations, eating out and buying goods from camera film to souveniers, major airlines are preparing for what has become an annual summertime ritual: fare wars.

While last year's round of fare cuts was limited to domestic ticket prices, this year's sales are expected to extend to overseas routes as well. Several travel experts predict airlines may start reducing prices for foreign destinations within the next month. …

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