A Deutsch treat for Yanks

BERLIN -- Parity, shmarity. Despite a stronger euro nearly equal to the dollar, the German capital remains a bargain among European destinations for U.S. visitors.

"Berlin's really a good deal for Americans who want to stay in luxury hotels and do a lot of shopping," said Hanns P. Nerger, president and chief executive officer of Berlin Tourismus Marketing (BTM), the city's tourist board.

Average nightly room rates in the city are significantly lower than in most major western European capitals -- and are even slightly cheaper than urban hotels in less prosperous central European cities.

The $98 average hotel rate in Berlin last year compared with $183 a night in Paris; $173 in London; $136 in Madrid; $109 in Prague, Czech Republic; and $102 in Budapest, Hungary, according to the Arthur Andersen Hotel Industry Benchmark Survey 2001.

And rooms are easier to come by, too, with an average 66% occupancy -- compared with 80% in Amsterdam -- of the city's 66,580 beds (in 557 hotels) in 2001, said BTM.

Thanks to a spurt in hotel construction, more than 75,000 rooms could become available by 2004.

"I think we have the best hotel landscape in Europe," said Nerger. "There are so many new buildings, and the older ones had to renovate or [watch business] go down."

Daytime bargains abound as well, and shoppers will find retail goods priced an average of one-third less than in London and about 25% less than in New York, said Nerger.

Meanwhile, the BTM's WelcomeCard discount visitor's pass -- priced at about $18 -- offers one adult and up to three children under age 14 free public transport throughout Berlin and neighboring Potsdam for 72 hours.

An accompanying coupon booklet offers discounts of up to 50% at 92 attractions, including theaters, museums, the city zoo, the casino and bus and boat tours. -- K.K.

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