holiday money

Holidaying in an overdrawn country

I’m in Greece at the moment, a country which has been suffering recently from severe economic problems. Over the past decade the government has taken advantage of the security of being part of the Euro and borrowed more than the country’s total annual revenue. The downturn lead to less advantageous borrowing rates, leaving the country with an increasingly difficult task to repay the loans (sounds like the “sub-prime” crisis but for countries rather than homeowners, doesn’t it?). Cuts in public sector pay and benefits have lead to protests and riots. So does this affect you if you’re visiting the country?

My experience is no. The weakened Euro has helped increase the number of visitors to Greece and its islands, where I am right now. Hotels and restaurants therefore are not short of customers and although I have seen a number of closed establishments, such businesses can fail even in boom times. Prices for meals and drinks remain reasonable – no sign of businesses using inflation to combat financial problems. There have also been no effects of any strikes, although if you were to be relying on public transport you may run out of luck (I have had no problem using the buses here, however).

The holiday resorts, bars, shops and tourist attractions have been as busy as ever and it doesn’t appear that the larger economic problems of the country are having an impact on the day-to-day experiences of a tourist enjoying the hospitality of a popular holiday destination.

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Monday, July 5th, 2010 Economy, Foreign Currency No Comments

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Pound’s Euro rate improves

With the economy having improved over the last couple of months, and many people last year choosing to have a cheaper holiday and stay in the UK, perhaps this year there’ll be more of us thinking of treating ourselves to a trip to Europe this summer. And if you’re one of them, good news – over the last few weeks the Euro exchange rate has improved significantly!

Although €1.20 to the pound is not what you might consider a great rate, it’s not been at that level since the pound plummetted at the end of 2008. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news – this improvement is not due to the pound getting stronger but the Euro getting weaker – the pound continues to fall against the Yen and the Dollar (although it has seen a recent rally on this last count). The BBC’s Gavin Hewitt has written a great blog post explaining why the Euro is in such trouble.

When will the pound return to its previous strong position? Well, the rates we remember of a few years ago such as 2 dollars to the pound are not going to return anytime soon, but if confidence in the UK economy increases then investors will value the pound more. An increase in UK interest rates would also give a boost (since saving pounds then becomes more worthwhile) – but this would impact on mortgage interest rates for a lot of homeowners. Would you rather find it easier to pay your mortgage every month, or have a bit extra holiday money in the summer?

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Friday, June 11th, 2010 Foreign Currency 3 Comments

Election come down

So after all the hype and canvassing and the debates, the results are in – and it’s a hung Parliament, the first since 1974. What does that mean for your money? Well, first of all, the pound has fallen against other currencies – 4 cents against the dollar and 3 cents against the Euro – bad news if you were about to go on holiday!

Why is this? In short because the value of a currency is related to how confident investors are in a country’s economy. Historically, hung parliaments in Britain are unable to act as swiftly as majority governments, because consensus must be found by the members of coalition parties – who often disagree on certain principles. These delays in acting may hinder our recovery from the recession – so investors would rather not be holding on to the pound. Of course, if it does lead to a slow recovery (or even the “double dip” recession some analysts have been predicting), then this could continue to hit us in the wallet for months to come – with the effects of the recession continuing rather than abating.

Another area that was to be decided by this election was income tax and National Insurance. As I wrote previously, all the parties had set out in their manifestos their intended changes to the PAYE system. I put these all in the Election Comparison Calculator – which shows you want impact these differences would have on you. With no party yet in charge, it’s not clear what will happen about this – whose policies will be enacted? The Conservatives, who have the largest number of seats, said they would hold an emergency budget to implement some of their changes before next year. We’ll have to wait and see to find out what really happens.

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Pound falling against the Euro

I have a trip to Paris coming up and it’s prompted me to check out the current exchange rate on the excellent X-Rates site. As you’ll see if you click on that link, Sterling has been falling over the last month or so.

As I wrote a few months ago, the Pound had improved both against the Euro and the Dollar during the summer months, which was good news for those of use on holiday there. It didn’t reach the highs of 2008, but it had improved since last winter. However, during August and particularly in September, a lot of the ground the Pound had made up was lost against both currencies. The pound is currently worth €1.09, from a high during the summer of €1.18, making travelling to Europe very expensive for us Brits.

I believe the reason for the Pound’s decline is the fact that the UK is still in recession whereas the powerhouses of Europe, Germany and France, have successfully grown their economies. Hopefully we will see in the next few months Britain exit from recession, and then the Pound will become a more attractive currency for investors, making it stronger and (importantly) worth more.

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Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 Foreign Currency No Comments

Holiday exchange rates

Like a lot of people, I’m keeping my eye on foreign exchange rates at the moment. Those people lucky enough to go on holiday abroad this year have been worrying about the weak pound ever since they booked the ferry! Fortunately, the pound has been getting stronger over the last few months and while it’s nowhere near the levels it was this time last year, it’s a significant improvement on 6 months ago, when it was pretty much £1 = €1.

It’s improved against the dollar, too – from $1.38 a few months ago to $1.65. Although most of us will be comparing this with the $2.00 rate that was stable for some time in 2008, it’s worth remembering that that was unusually high, and $1.70 or $1.80 is more like the standard value. Compared to this, $1.65 is not too bad.

While a strong pound is good news for holidaymakers, the British tourist industry often suffers as fewer people visit our shores, and those that do come spend less while they are here. Hopefully this summer will see an improvement on previous years as visitors from the US, the Eurozone and even Japan are all still getting a good deal on their pounds, and more natives stay at home to beat the exchange rate!

Although some people in the industry are negative, believing that economic uncertainty and unemployment will mean fewer people will be taking advantage of the tourist industry, the fact that the pound is still lower than it was last summer should pull visitors in from abroad and hopefully give the industry a shot in the arm.

Exchange rates can be monitored here.

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Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 Foreign Currency 2 Comments

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