Weakening US dollar may affect summer travel plans
An Italian holidaymaker relaxes on the beach. (Adam Butler/Associated Press)
This week, the US dollar fell to a 16-month low against the euro. As of yesterday, it is costing Americans about $1.47 for each euro, which is getting awfully close to British sterling: $1.64 for each pound.
The US dollar has also lost ground to Australian and Canadian currencies. This week the US dollar fell to its lowest point since 1983 against the Australian dollar at $1.08 and the Canadian dollar is the strongest it's been since 2007, at $1.05.
What does all this mean for travellers? Well, if exchange rates don't change much by summer, a weak dollar could keep more Americans at home and the US could become a bargain destination for visitors from countries with stronger currencies.
Even though transatlantic airfares for peak season summer trips are sky high, a favourable exchange rate for Europeans might be enough to tip the scales. Those transatlantic flights will likely be full of Europeans flying to and from the United States. Even the $4 to $5 per gallon gasoline that is currently shocking Americans will seem like a bargain for Europeans used to spending twice that much.
Hotel rates in coastal US cities favoured by international visitors (such as New York, Washington, DC, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco) will continue to climb due to higher demand, but slightly lower prices can be found in interior US cities, like Atlanta, Chicago or Salt Lake City where rates remain flat. Those taking a vacation in the US will also find lower prices on hotels, meals and entertainment in the South or Rocky Mountain regions.
For Americans travelling overseas, hotel rates are going feel outrageously high, especially in popular business and leisure destinations such as London, Paris, Rome and Sydney. Americans may find some rate relief in economically distressed countries like Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, but with an unfavourable euro to dollar exchange rate, those discounts could end up as a wash. Trips to Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal are also going to feel more expensive than ever to Americans who may still, falsely, think of Canada as a bargain destination.
Unfortunately, a weak dollar could hurt Americans who choose to travel within the US as much as those venturing overseas. Since imported oil is already approaching (and could soon exceed) record prices, road trips for business or pleasure are going to be more expensive.
If you are an American, will a weak dollar and high airfares keep you from international travel this summer? If you are an Australian, Canadian or European, are the bargains you'll likely find in the US enough to make you overlook high airfares and make the trip? Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel.