"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.)"
I suppose my question is what does Europe mean: is it the football? Is it Dante? It is very pleasing that it is - despite several years of overt anti-Americanism here in Europe - thriving. It can't just be the coach tours, my curse of Cremona. So, as Venice looms, I need to ask some Americans, what is it about Europe?
"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 destination.
“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."
The whole story, whilst it is live.