Euro presents many firsts: Visa official

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AUDIO: The speech referenced in the article below and other speeches from Travel Weekly's Euro Conference are available in their entirety, exclusively on Crossroads.

NEW YORK -- "When the Soviet Union broke up, Visa added 15 currencies almost overnight, so what's the big deal with the euro?" asked Simon Jarvis, Visa International's senior vice president of global support services.

"Well, the euro is quite different," he told attendees at the Travel Weekly Euro Conference here. The conference, held last month, was sponsored by Marriott and Visa.

Unlike any other currency, the euro will be phased in over several years rather than unveiled with a "big bang," he said, adding that during the transition period, the euro will be the only currency to have 11 different denominations.

Simon JarvisFor the first time, travelers will be able to compare prices across European borders. This "price transparency" could lead to lower prices as competition between countries heats up, Jarvis said.

During the phase-in period, Jan. 1 to July 1, 2002, European merchants will be able to accept payments three different ways, Jarvis explained. They will be able:

  • To accept one currency, either local or the euro.
  • To accept local currency but also quote the amount in euros, for information only.
  • To accept payment in either euro or local currency.
  • Visa launched a euro traveler's check that can be used in European shops. Eventually, some Visa institutions will issue euro-denominated credit or debit cards that will save conversion fees for travelers crossing European borders, Jarvis said.

    A single currency also will lend itself to Internet sales, he said, adding that agents most likely will encounter the euro in their business dealings, as well. "Increasingly, you'll be requested to pay for packages and services in the euro," he said.

    The travel industry will be the first to adopt the euro, Jarvis said, because it is international and because a high proportion of tourists use credit cards.

    Jarvis also said the euro will reach beyond Europe. "It's dangerous just to focus on the euro as a European phenomenon. Some of the multinational chains of hotels, and potentially airlines, could start to quote prices in euro." Some African and Caribbean currencies are, or are linked with, European currencies, Jarvis noted. "Those currencies will also be linked to the euro or become the euro over time," he said.

    The first euro purchase, a watch bought in Brussels by Visa executives last June, is now displayed in a British museum.

    Jarvis invited agents to send their euro questions to [email protected].

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  • Simon Jarvis, Visa International
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