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Foreign Tourists Bring Dreams, Dollars To U.S.

July 1, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Marie Lemoin came to the United States with a bag full of dreams and a fist full of dollars.

The French woman is part of the wave of foreigners taking advantage of the weak dollar to visit America and splurge on goods that have become bargains in terms of their own currencies.

Ms. Lemoin, 21, arrived in New York this year carrying a suitcase, a satchel stuffed with guidebooks and slick tourist brochures and a wad of travelers’ checks and assorted U.S. currency.

She said she never expected her money to go so far.

But Yvonne Gomez and her husband, Ramiro, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, stopped in New York en route to a European vacation, expecting to pick up a lot of bargains.

″We’re taking his wallet to my favorite places - Saks and Bloomingdale’s,″ said Mrs. Gomez, anticipating her shopping spree at two of New York’s most stylish department stores.

Nigel and Rosy Collins of London took their vacation in the United States for the same reason. They estimated their week-long trip would cost about half what they would have paid two years ago.

They may have been carried away in their enthusiasm, since the dollar is only 10 percent cheaper against the pound than it was at the end of June 1986.

″Everything is so warm, so new, so cheap,″ he said.

″And you have Don Johnson,″ his wife added, referring to the star of popular television detective series ″Miami Vice.″

Foreigners have been lining up to get into the Empire State Building, to catch a ride on the Staten Island ferry past the Statue of Liberty, and to buy half-price tickets for Broadway shows. They have been packing restaurants in Chinatown and Little Italy.

Elsewhere, record crowds are converging on the beaches, popular tourist attractions in southern Florida and California.

And the numbers are expected to swell during the summer.

The rise in foreign tourism is due largely to the weak dollar, which has doubled the buying power of the Japanese yen and West German mark since early 1985. Most other nations’ currencies also buy more here.

By the end of the year, the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration predicts a record 30.2 million foreigners will have visited the United States as tourists, on business, or on visits to friends and relatives.

″I’m hearing French, German and Japanese everywhere. It’s like a language school outside my office,″ said Michael Finley, superintendent of Florida’s 1.4 million-acre Everglades National Park, where attendance is up more than 40 percent over last year.

Nearly half of the foreign visitors will come from neighboring Canada and Mexico, the tourism administration said. But more Japanese and Europeans are expected to visit than ever before.

″Projections are that British, German, and French travel to the U.S. will hit a new record, and Japan will hit a new record again,″ said Ron Erdmann of the agency’s research office.

The number of visiting Brazilians also is expected to increase, in part due to that government’s decision to rescind the 25 percent surtax on overseas plane tickets and on U.S. dollars purchased for foreign travel.

Executives at the Resort Hotel Association of Miami Beach, said they thought they were overly optimistic when they sent their London tourism office 20,000 brochures touting package deals to the Florida beach resort.

″We were gambling. But in 10 days, we ran out,″ said Murray Gold, executive director of the association. ″The requests coming in are phenomenal. We never expected it.″

Ms. Lemoin, who left France a year ago to study languages in Sheffield, England, said at first she did not think she could afford a trip to America. Her home is in Toulouse. ″My aunt always told me the first place I should visit was ’the States,‴ she said. ″But I thought it would be too expensive.″

It only took an outing in New York’s Greenwich Village and Soho areas to dispel that notion.

″I’ve been able to buy whatever I want,″ she said, looking out into New York Harbor from the top of the 110-story World Trade Center.

″I hope to have a lot more of these before I go home,″ she said, pointing to a huge bag stuffed with a variety of souvenirs, including T-shirts, postcards, coffee mugs and an apple-shaped key ring emblazoned with ″I Love New York.″

And that was just the beginning, she said.

She pulled out a color pamphlet from the Arizona tourist ageny and said: ″I’m disappointed the only place I won’t get to see is the Grand Canyon.″

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