Europe wants American tourists back

Stephen Beard Jul 1, 2008

Europe wants American tourists back

Stephen Beard Jul 1, 2008


Bob Moon: It’s not like the Europeans aren’t already feeling our pain. When we Americans vacation in Europe, we stay longer and spend more than any other nationality. 13 million of us left behind more than $10 billion in Britain and France alone last year.

No wonder some Europeans are starting to get desperate for us to pay them a visit. Here’s Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London.

Stephen Beard: I’m outside Buckingham Palace on a sunny summer afternoon trying to spot American tourists. There are not many. The few that are here have braved the soaring cost of transatlantic travel. They’ve come to London to see the sights and they’re paying the price.

First Man: Because of the dollar declining from about four years ago, I would say many things are double the price they were four or five years ago.

Second Man: It’s very, very expensive here in London. Soon as you come you come here your money is pretty much cut in half.

Tens of thousands of Americans have been deterred from visiting Europe this year. So far, the number of U.S. visitors crossing the Atlantic is down by 5 percent.

Simon Calder, Travel Editor of the Independent Newspaper, says by the end of the summer, things could look much worse.

Simon Calder: One tour operator put it to me, “It’s as though the American market has just fallen off a cliff,” which is exactly what the Europeans are terrified of.

Some European countries are now scrambling to lure back the missing Americans.

First Woman: Guess what? Tom and I are going to Ireland.

Second Woman: Ireland! You’ll have the greatest time.

First Woman: And we did it easy and so affordable

Ireland’s ad campaign harps on the theme of affordability. There’s a welter of cut-price packages. Fly this airline and pay no fuel surcharge. Rent a car from that company and get the use of a cellphone for free. Cost-saving deals like this have sprouted across the continent.

Mark Gorgon of the World Hotels Group has launched a campaign with a snappy slogan:

Mark Gorgon: Stay in Europe. Pay in dollars.

He says that this summer his company has abolished the exchange rate for American customers, making one dollar equal one euro.

Gorgon: This involves staying in one of our properties and paying the exact same amount in dollars as it would cost you in euros.

Beard: That’s quite a discount. You’re taking quite a hit.

Gorgon: Yeah, on average individual travelers will save about 40 percent on each reservation.

There’s a whiff of desperation about some of the attempts to attract Americans across the Atlantic this summer. Britain is urging you to come to the U.K. to meet Brits. There’s a Web site called Be a Brit Different. It looks like a dating site. Log on and pictures of welcoming Brits pop up complete with personality profiles.

Simon Bradley: One of the things that we know about Americans is that they love the range of characters that you can meet in Britain.

Simon Bradley oversees the Be a Brit Different campaign, He says that without a language barrier, Americans can get easily into the social fabric of Britain.

Bradley: An American can get off the plane and within a couple of hours they can be chatting in a pub, they can be sat in a cafe, they can be sat on a bus talking to a real British person getting lots of insight into the destination.

But travel editor Simon Calder says he has a better idea for Americans who want to avoid the language barrier and get into the social fabric of the place they visit. Follow the lead of millions of Europeans this summer and spend your vacation in America.

Calder: So much to see, so much to do. Everything you could want is within the United States. So, why go all the way to Europe, which is crowded, and this summer it’s also extremely expensive!

In spite of all the European discounts, many Americans seem to have come to the same conclusion and have decided to stay at home this summer.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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