NEW YORK -- The only certainty about the common currency slated
for introduction in much of western Europe is that it will take
some romance out of travel, much in the way that passport-free
borders took some adventure of out it, industry officials
In interviews here and in Europe, trade group executives, ground
suppliers and industry observers generally prefaced any positive
remarks about the currency -- called the euro -- with a cautionary
note that the effects of anything untried is anyone's guess,
especially in a political hotbed like western Europe.
Less than a year from now, the treaty that put Maastricht on the
map in 1992 will bring the euro into the European banking system.
And by 2002, the national currencies of an estimated 11 countries
no longer will exist, as euro coins and notes will have
methodically spread from financial institutions into the pockets of
ordinary people, including tourists.
Neil Martin, of the New York-based 28-member European Travel
Commission, said tourists will have the advantage of locked-in
exchange rates. "They'll know that in any of the [participating]
countries, so many dollars will get them so many euros, unlike now,
when they might get more German marks, say, than French francs
[when exchanging the same] value of dollars."
What is unknown, Martin noted, is whether the euro will be weak
or strong, and whether Europe's central bank will routinely shrink
the supply to increase demand. Conversely, it is unknown, but
widely considered unlikely, whether the central bank occasionally
will "loosen things up" to ease any one country's fiscal woes.
Generally, Martin said, the euro will save tourists from having
to fork over currency exchange fees, and those who work at exchange
kiosks in western Europe might begin considering a new line of
ASTA's director of communications, Steve Loucks, said the
changeover will "just make it easier" for clients to move around.
"The euro has not, to my knowledge, caused any consternation to
travel agents. But the romantic side of me says it's sad," he
Ground suppliers in Europe, most of whom were interviewed during
last November's World Travel Market in London, shrugged off any
serious impact the euro might have on the travel industry, either
here or in Europe.
In fact, no one interviewed at the Earls Court exhibition
pretended to have any clue about the ramifications of the euro and,
moreover, none seemed to be even mildly curious. "In theory," said
Ed Griffin, executive vice president and chief executive officer of
Dallas-based Meeting Professionals International, "the euro seems
to be a good idea."
"It would allow the exchange of money in the meetings markets to
be greatly simplified, especially if you have attendees from
different areas of the continent." The biggest question, he added,
is whether Europe can successfully implement anything that has such
potential for affecting each country's monetary system. "The jury
is still out [on that]," Griffin said.
NEW YORK -- The European Commission, an administrative arm here
of the European Union, provided a list of countries likely to
qualify for "first-round" inclusion in the common currency plan.
Each nation must meet strict financial criteria with regard to
national deficits, inflation rates and national debt.
According to a spokesman for the European Commission, the list
could change before the euro enters the European banking system
next year, as each country's fiscal health will continually be
monitored for deficiencies in the criteria.
Some countries, such as Great Britain and Sweden, would qualify
under the current criteria but have bowed out of the plan, at least
for now, he noted. Others, like some in the former eastern bloc,
must first become members of the Brussels, Belgium-based European
Union before being considered for the euro.
He said those most likely to join the single currency plan --
perhaps in the next decade, provided they are first granted
European Union membership -- are Estonia, Hungary and Poland.
Countries currently poised to abandon their national currencies
in favor of the euro are:AustriaBelgiumFinlandFranceGermanyItalyIrelandLuxembourgNetherlandsPortugalSpain