I do. I’m headed to Europe twice with my family: on a Mediterranean cruise in July and a tour of Italy in early September. While none of the experts I spoke with advised me to cancel, they did caution me to monitor the situation carefully.
“This is very different from years past,” says Bruce McIndoe, president of iJET Intelligent Risk Systems, a security consulting company. “The nexus of governing and financial issues will create a much more dynamic and tense environment throughout Europe over years past, where it has been much more localized.” Indeed, Greece was the scene last week of violent clashes between police and protesters, as well as a disruptive nationwide strike.
American visitors are worried about two key issues: safety and money.
“The issue here is currency volatility,” said F. John Mathis, a professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz. “When a country is going through a debt restructuring, as Greece is, the euro will depreciate, making it less expensive for U.S. tourists to visit Europe.”
But that could change quickly once the situation stabilizes. Then the euro would probably strengthen against the dollar, making travel more expensive. The euro has risen against the dollar since the beginning of the year but has leveled off after the unrest in Greece began.
By the way, another European currency worth paying attention to is the Swiss franc. It’s trading at an all-time high against the dollar because investors see it as an alternative to the euro, according to John Doyle, a senior currency strategist at Tempus Consulting in Washington. But apart from Switzerland, which has never had a reputation as a bargain destination, it should be relatively smooth sailing for the dollar.
“While the U.S. dollar is subject to possible devaluation over the coming months, visitors should feel secure in the purchasing power of the greenback in Europe this summer and in the coming years,” Doyle told me.
What about security? Europe-watchers say that if you’re headed to Portugal, Ireland, Greece or Spain, pay special attention to safety. High unemployment and economic weakness make these countries potential hot spots this summer.
Michael Kelly, the president of On Call International, a provider of medical evacuation services, says that visitors should check the State Department Web site for any warnings (travel.state.gov) just in case something flares up. “Be aware of new security guidelines, political and security warnings and major weather conditions, and stay connected with your smartphone by checking Twitter and news outlets for breaking news updates,” he says.