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American Tourists Gripe About High Prices With Dollar At Record Low With AM-Greenback

August 26, 1992

American Tourists Gripe About High Prices With Dollar At Record Low With AM-Greenback Blues-Box

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Denise Holmes of Philadelphia was standing in the lobby of a Frankfurt hotel feeling like she’d just been robbed.

″I bought a Herald Tribune and a bag of popcorn this morning and it cost six bucks (8.40 marks). The guy took the money and didn’t even smile,″ she said.

Wherever you go in Western Europe, you’ll hear Americans singing the greenback blues.

The U.S. currency has slumped to an all-time low. Visitors can now buy only 1.40 marks for a dollar, compared to more than 3 marks in 1985. In July 1991, a dollar bought 1.84 marks.

That translates into major sticker-shock for Americans who venture across the Atlantic, and for dollar-paid GIs and their families living here.

In Paris, a Coca-Cola in a sidewalk cafe can cost $4.34; economy-minded travelers who decide to get a Coke from a machine will pay $2.18.

A single compact disc purchased at a German store will reduce your bank account by about $25.

In Paris, a small hotel room can cost $200.

While waiting for a train at London’s Victoria Station, Liz Beck, a 32- year-old graduate student from Pittsburgh, and Diane Doherty, 42, who works at the Georgetown Medical School in Washington, D.C., were griping about the cost of vacationing in England.

″We’ve just spent $22 for the worst fish and chips we’ve ever had,″ complained Ms. Beck. One British pound is worth about $2.

Ruth Taylor of Palm Springs, Calif. was wandering through London’s Harrods department store, eyebrows lifted in astonishment.

″One little golf towel for 9 pounds - that’s $18,″ she exclaimed.

″We always thought things were much higher in Palm Springs,″ said Mrs. Taylor. ″They are much higher here. We are welcoming all tourists to come and spend money in the United States.″

European businesses that cater to Americans also are feeling the squeeze.

Jutta Zimmermann operates a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Darmstadt, Germany. She is accustomed to serving American soldiers piles of pullet, feasts of french fries, a surfeit of sodas.

″But with the dollar so low, Americans might come in and buy two pieces of chicken, and that’s it,″ she lamented.

Comprehensive figures are not yet available to show whether the dollar’s dive is putting a big dent in tourism from the United States.

But the year-end results could be depressing.

Rudiger Emich runs Frankfurt’s oldest travel agency, the Reisedienst der Wirtschaft, and deals mainly with American tour groups, sending them to Heidelberg Castle, to the annual Munich beer festival, and the Bavarian Alps.

But he said his business has dropped off as much as 50 percent.

″Usually there are 40 to 45 people in a group. Now that is down to 20 to 25,″ Emich said. ″American tourists feel it is too expensive.″

But travel agents who book West Europeans heading in the opposite direction are all smiles.

Travellers of the World, a Paris travel agency, says its traffic to the United States jumped 38 percent for the first eight months of this year over the same period last year.

Germans have also been flocking to the United States.

″We’re expecting at least a 15 percent increase over last year’s 1.4 million travelers. The weakened dollar is a decisive factor,″ said Gerd Leininger, spokesman for the federal tourist board.

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