Americans enjoy global travel discounts as dollar soars

Overseas travel gives US tourists relief from sky-high inflation at home - if they can afford to fly out

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The British pound's collapse to its lowest level ever against the US dollar has further roiled global financial markets, but the flip side of Britain's despair is positive news for Americans, whose Mighty Greenback is now at — or near — historic highs against several currencies.

For people paid in US dollars, or in a currency pegged to it such as the UAE's dirham, this means Britain, Europe, Japan and beyond are now deeply discounted for anyone with the means to visit.

“If you want to come and see the new king for half price, fly Virgin Atlantic," Virgin Atlantic's chief executive Shai Weiss said on Tuesday.

The dollar's rise has seen it smash parity with the euro for the first time in 20 years, surge by about 30 per cent against the yen this year alone and brought into play the once-unthinkable prospect of eclipsing the British pound in value, following Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng's tax-slashing mini budget, which markets reacted to with a collective facepalm.

Economists see the world's top currency growing stronger still, with investors seeking higher returns on dollar deposits as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates. The buck is also seeing its power expand as energy shortages and uncertainty from Russia's war in Ukraine hammer European currencies.

Caleb Reed, a personal finance expert and founder of TheDollarBudget, noted that Americans hobbled by high inflation at home can get some relief if they are able to travel abroad.

“Americans travelling overseas ... will get more for their money on everything from lodging to food," Mr Reed told The National.

"This could result in several hundred dollars in relative savings for Americans travelling to European destinations."

Japan will reopen fully to tourism next month and European destinations are thrilled with the recent influx of American tourists.

"Presently, Americans can get bigger discounts on luxury hotels and on lunches and dinners after they commute to Europe or other countries," financial expert and founder of FinanceJar Elena Jones told The National.

"It's as if the entire globe is on sale at a deep discount to them."

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It's a stunning reversal for the dollar, which has often lagged behind other currencies. For instance in Britain 15 years ago, £1 bought more than $2. That left price-shocked American tourists forking over nearly $10 for a one-way ticket on the London Underground.

Jason Porter, a senior investment manager at Singapore-based Scottish Heritage, said that in the first half of 2022, the US dollar's rise sparked a real estate buying frenzy in Europe and Canada, driving total cross-border real estate investment flows to their greatest first half in years.

"A strong dollar will make it more expensive for foreign investors to purchase real estate in the United States, while giving American investors more purchasing power abroad," Mr Porter told The National.

"London drew the greatest investment of any city in the past six months, with just under $10 billion invested, primarily by Asian investors eager to purchase prized office buildings."

David Decker, a lawyer and real estate investor based in Atlanta, Georgia, had travelled frequently to Paris, France, for many years and when the US dollar started gaining in value, he decided to invest in a property there.

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“My family and I had been going to Barbizon, which is about 30 minutes outside of Paris, since about 2010,” Mr Decker told The National. “When the dollar and the euro were almost 1-to-1, we decided it was time to buy and stop renting.”

Mr Decker purchased a two-bedroom flat for about €500,000 in late July.

“Had I waited another month when the US dollar was at its current peak, I could’ve saved about $25,000.”

He is currently in Barbizon, purchasing household items for the flat.

“I’ve never seen the French so happy to see Americans, but of course they are always happy to see our money,” he laughed.

A wave of Americans looking to escape political uncertainty and rampant gun crime at home is also moving to countries that offer so-called golden visas, such as Portugal. Residency with a fast-track to EU citizenship currently comes with a €500,000 investment in Portuguese bourses.

A year ago, that would have cost an American almost $600,000. Today it would be about $479,000.

While a strong dollar may be good news for US tourists, it can hamper American exports, as overseas companies struggle to pay inflated prices.

In addition, "the soaring dollar adds risks for the Fed as it seeks to tame inflation without slowing the economy into a recession", noted Morgan Stanley's Lisa Shalett in a note to investors.

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Updated: September 28, 2022, 5:35 AM
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