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Europe a “Hot Ticket” This Summer. Really?

Europe — By Alex Resnik on May 21, 2010 at 8:00 am
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The results are in for yet another TripAdvisor survey: the travel website has dubbed Europe a “hot ticket for US travelers in 2010.” Among airline strikes, apocalyptic ash clouds, and economic turmoil in Greece, Portugal, and Spain (among others), it seems TripAdvisor might be a little out of touch. The survey of more than 1,200 respondents, however, doesn’t lie: 60% of tourists were planning a trip to Europe in 2010, up 10% from last year. In fact, a number of factors are contributing to Europe’s resilience and tourist appeal in 2010.

Money

TripAdvisor finds that 33% of US tourists are “wooed by more favorable exchange rates” between the dollar and the euro. The debt problem in many EU countries is being weighed by traders against a markedly improving economic situation in the US, according to the AP, contributing to higher valuation of the dollar against the euro. AP reports:

In late trading in New York, the euro slid to $1.2568 from $1.2631 late Wednesday. The euro is back near 14-month lows despite a nearly $1 trillion emergency financing deal for indebted countries using the euro from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

A problem of volcanic proportions

Apparently, respondents to TripAdvisor’s survey were under the impression that Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano had finished its business. The truth is that the little volcano that could is still chugging along, churning out a plume of ash with no end in sight.

The good news is that Eyjafjallajoekull has shrunken significantly over the past few weeks, and that the ash is no longer obstructing most major air lanes. Not true even last weekend and days before, when the plume was larger than the continent of Europe and stopped air traffic in the UK, Spain, Morocco, and Turkey. Daily .pdf maps of the cloud indicate it has shrunken significantly, and measurements taken at the site of the eruption indicate a slight reduction in magma-tude.

PIGS

Austerity is not a part of the average tourist’s lexicon, but it is increasingly working its way into European economic discussions. Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal (PIGS; the acronym, not the animal) are all facing runaway debt and have pushed through aggressive austerity packages aimed at reducing debt through tax increases and spending cuts. Italy is also considering a public sector wage freeze.

What does this mean for the average tourist? Probably effectively not a whole lot, except for more euros for dollars and cheaper travel. Well, the Germans are cranky. That could be bad.

BA Strike

When 1,200 British Airways cabin crew members announced a 20-day strike at Europe’s fourth-largest airline, speculators predicted a travel disaster rivaling, well, the spring of 2010. Four consecutive five-day strike actions were supposed to take place between May 18th and June 9th, with 24-hour returns to work in between. After an injunction and an appeal, it appears things are still moving forward. Yet, BA brass seem as cool as cucumber sandwiches. According to BA’s website:

If the strike does go ahead we will still operate most of our scheduled flights. We plan to operate all flights to and from London City and London Gatwick.
At Heathrow we intend to operate more than 60 per cent of longhaul flights and more than 50 per cent of shorthaul flights in the first strike period and we will add to this schedule where we can.

Turns out that the airline execs learned something during a similar strike in March: they can rent planes, hire scabs, and generally avoid the majority of impact to passengers, albeit at a huge cost.

Insurance?

Travelers stranded by the volcanic ash might even get bailed out by their traveler’s insurance. According to walletpop.com:

If you bought your policy before April 13 and your trip was delayed by the eruption, you’re likely to qualify for travel delay and missed connection coverage if you keep expenses reasonable and hang onto your receipts. Travel insurance experts expect most of the claims filed in connection with the volcanic eruption to fall into these two categories.

Did somebody say, rock-solid excuse to extend your European vacation at no extra cost? Sounds like a hot ticket indeed. We like.

Tags: 2010, ash, ba strike, euro, Europe, Eyjafjallajoekull, Greece, insurance, Portugal, spain, summer

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