Time to gather those euros
November 4, 2007
Twenty-dollar lattes, $100 cab fares, $500 hotel rooms: These are the costs of being a tourist in many European countries … and it hurts.If you are inclined to travel in Europe, get ready to pay through the nose for your indulgence. But what’s the value of travel if every pleasure brings a grimace and every charge is an insult?Face it: The dollar is falling into the substrata of global currencies, especially where it weighs in against the euro. Talk to anyone who has just returned from Europe, and you’ll get the same report: Now is not the time to flex America’s flabby economic muscle on the Continent.The failing dollar has to do with balance of trade, national indebtedness, falling interest rates and the China Price. It has to do with short-term economic decisions that are projecting long-term financial inadequacies.So what do we do about it? Staying home would be one solution. Forget the European tour. Be a homebody and profit from a flood of European tourists flocking to ski Aspen this winter. It’s going to happen … and happen big-time.There are two reasons: One (the obvious) is economic. Europeans can easily afford Aspen prices, so they’ll be spending their euros here. Another is climate change. The Alps are melting, while Aspen enjoys snow because of our high-elevation ski areas.Europeans love to ski, and they will travel thousands of miles to find snow. So jack up the prices and get ready to ring the cash register on a very favorable exchange rate. The dollar may be in the tank, but in Aspen the euro will come to us with a smile.There is a reason beyond snow and economics for an influx of European tourists at our ski areas. Our valley is strikingly beautiful. Sometimes we forget that in our various preoccupations, or when we become habituated to our elegant amenities and awesome mountain vistas. What we take for granted, Europeans are eager to embrace, and they’ll pay for it, handsomely.Now that the dollar is weaker than Popeye during the spinach taint, it’s time for us to vacation at home and appreciate the local beauty. It’s affordable and hassle-free. There are no security checks, no passports, no jet lag. Just stay home and enjoy.There’s another great reason to vacation locally – reducing carbon footprints. There is no more pure expression of environmental commitment than to stay home and avoid the fossil fuel impacts of overseas travel.Thanks to the plunge of the dollar, we can have our cake and eat it, too. Stay home, be green, save money, rediscover our mountains, overcharge the Europeans, and feel a sense of independence from the age-old pull of Europe.Thoreau said that going east to Europe meant going back in time, back to the culture of our ancestors. For Thoreau, the only direction worth going was west, toward the horizon, toward the wilds, toward the vitalizing influences of wilderness.In truth, we’re lucky that the dollar is in the toilet, because it will reawaken us to our sense of place and reinvigorate our love of the West. By staying home, more of us might actually work to preserve the wild places and open lands in which wealthy, Euro-toting Europeans find refuge from the crowded tumult of the Old World.Europe can wait. It’s time to stay close to home, rake in the euros, and enrich our local coffers. The Europeans may own most of the wealth, but they don’t own Colorado … Well, not yet.Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays.