Although the euro won't be available in hard cash for some time, tourists can use credit cards to pay in the new currency beginning next year
One currency over all
As Europe goes euro, what can tourists expect?
December 30, 1998
Web posted at: 3:39 p.m. EST (2039 GMT)
(CNN) -- Eurotourism begins in January. But what will this long-anticipated change bring? According to the experts, travelers visiting Europe should find more stable exchange rates and easier cross-country shopping when the region begins adopting the euro as its single currency.
The transition won't take place overnight. For instance, the euro won't even exist as a hard currency until the 2001-2002 fiscal year, but it will be traded electronically on the currency exchange and other financial markets. As for tourists, they'll be able to receive their bills in euros and use credit cards to pay in the new currency beginning next year.
There will be other changes as well: The euro symbol will begin to appear in banks, and many European shops will introduce dual pricing -- price tags with one price in euros and the other in the local currency.
"It's all going to be the same currency, so I can more rapidly make my buying decision, and that is likely to be a boost to the traveler, a boost to the hotel," said Jonathan Langston, joint managing director of BDO Hospitality Consulting.
In addition, many hotels will quote room prices in euros.
A single currency backed by 11 countries, the euro will make it simpler for travelers to compare the cost of products from country to country. For U.S. tourists, the estimated exchange rate is 1.1 dollars per euro -- an easier computation, say, than 1663 Italian lira to the dollar.
But the euro's introduction is already causing some confusion.
At Tokyo's International Airport, it's peak travel time and tens of thousands of Japanese passengers are bound for European destinations. Some are unsure what impact the new currency will have on their travels.
"Are England, France and all of Europe going to be unified? I don't think they'll be able to do it. But really, I just don't understand all this," said one confused traveler.
However, there are those who believe the new currency will make it simpler to travel across Europe.
"I used to be posted in the UK by my company. I remember how much of a pain it was crossing borders and having all this spare change left. I think it will be a good idea," said another traveler.
The euro should be more stable than some existing currencies, such as the Italian lira and the Spanish peseta. One disadvantage is that the euro likely will be a strong currency, and that will be as true in Spain as in Germany.
"The lower prices that we've been able to see in Spain, Portugal and, to a lesser extent, in Italy will not be manifest in the same way as they have in the past because those have been controlled by the overall level of the different currencies," said Martin Brackenbury, chairman of the World Tourism Organization.
CNN Correspondent May Lee contributed to this report.