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June 03, 2008

Down With the Dollar, Up With the Deals

Casa Howard
Viva il dollaro!
Photo: Casa Howard Florence

by Ondine Cohane

Many of the European-based hotel operators and travel agents I have spoken to lately bemoan the skyrocketing euro, which has caused their American-fueled business to drop about 40 percent. Not only that; anecdotal evidence points to drastically reduced spending by U.S. visitors who still do make the trip (people buying one bottle of Brunello instead of a case or opting for a standard room instead of a deluxe, for example). As someone who is paid in greenbacks and lives in euroland, I understand supermodel Gisele's requirement not to be paid in dollars (but unlike her luxe labels, I don't think the mag will go for a currency change).

The drooping number of American travelers is causing resorts to look for new client sources--the Russian and Indian markets are burgeoning--and in many cases offer some gringo-sensitive deals. When booking your trip to Europe, check online to see if the property you want to stay at has a special rate for Americans or at least a fixed rate on booking so your $300 room doesn't become $360 if the dollar continues to slide. I've been hearing of some notable options lately . . .

The Casa Howard in both Florence and Rome has a special "Viva il dollaro!" offer on its Web site, and the Orient-Express just announced a seven-day special for this fall (Sept. 20 to Oct. 26) at its seriously swank properties: Venice's Hotel Cipriani, Villa San Michele in Florence, fab Hotel Splendido in Portofino (my friends Judy and Stuart Hershon were just staying with me and said it's one of their favorite hotels in the world), and Hotel Caruso in Ravello on the Amalfi coast. Starting at $6,860, the package is seriously beyond budget for many of us, but at the same time at least you wont suddenly be paying 20 percent more if that pesky euro keeps going up. Anyway, try to get a special rate before you head to the old country--we want to encourage even more hotels to get in on this trend. And remember: There's no harm in asking.

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