The value of goods and services may remain steady, but the cost depends on the currency they are priced in. Specifically, a hotel room in Europe listed for €130 would cost an American buyer $165 today, while a European booking a hotel in Chicago for $130 would pay slightly more than €102 at current exchange rates.
Consider that the Euro was designed to lock or peg exchange rates between member countries when it launched on January 1, 1999. The single Euro-area currency eliminated more than a dozen local currencies and provided transparency across Europe as people in many countries were better able to compare the value of their Euro’s in any participating country (the British are noticeably absent and trade between the island nation and the continent must still be converted in or out of British Pounds). The new currency closed at 1.19 Euros to the USD on its launch, but within twelve months had fallen to 1:1. That triggered a crisis that only abated after the Euro reached a low of 82¢ in late 2000. In 21 months the Euro lost a third of its value, a striking decline. I had just started a new job and was tasked with designing exchange rate collars for consumer financial products offered in international markets. That experience replaced the history and theory I’d been taught with a ringside view of the real-world destruction foreign exchange rate fluctuations can have on a business. I’ve paid careful attention ever since and I’m never surprised by how few people understand what these fluctuations can do. Seven years later, in March 2008, the Euro reached a high 1.578USD – almost a 100% gain from the earlier low.
Forex isn’t just for quant’s in the corporate treasurer’s office. Foreign exchange rate observations should be on every international marketing professional’s list of things to pay attention to. Here’s the short version – businesses should promote their products in places where their currency is cheap and pull back where or when their currency is expensive. Specifically, the US airlines should have promoted travel to Europe from January 2000 through 2002 to residents in North America. Leading up to Euro peak in March 2008 and even after a modest decline US and foreign flag carriers should have promoted travel to the US to take advantage of the Euro’s high value against the USD.
So what happens to revenue and profits? Most companies report their earnings in their home country currency – so when the Euro was cheap in 2000-2002 US airlines and hotels would have lost money on sales made in Europe. Hotels offer a good example. Assume Hyatt, based in Chicago, offered rooms in Europe for €130 at the low. That room in Paris, or Frankfurt would have contributed $106 in revenue. Conversely, the same €130 room converted at the Euro high in 2008 would have contributed $205 to Hyatt’s revenue. Same room, same price, very different result – remember the Euro appreciated almost 100% over seven years.
Where are we today? The Euro traded last week at $1.28, an eight percent increase in a few months, but the longer term trend has been down. Pressure from insolvency in Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Italy is mounting. As the European Central Bank implements measures to solve the crisis, it will add downward pressure to the Euro currency value. Barring civil unrest to protest against local austerity measures, travel companies should advertise the relative values in Europe to travelers from the Western Hemisphere. A quick look at the sources of financial tension in many countries, especially youth unemployment rates, leads me to conclude that trip insurance for business or leisure travel is a good idea too. The key takeaway is that Europe is on sale and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
About the author. Paul Laherty is passionate about problem solving. He led the Americas Air and Hotel consulting teams at Advito, a travel management consulting company. Paul also managed teams in Sales, Marketing and Finance at American Airlines. His work at AA included supervising the global corporate contract team, working closely with large customers in Global Sales, and managing the Los Angeles sales team where he met some very well-known customers. Paul managed American’s business loyalty program and he launched a loyalty credit card with American Express. He enjoys applying original research (he calls it Phynancial Fisics) to solve problems. Paul lives in Southlake, Texas with his wife and two daughters and flies a Cherokee 140 as often as time allows. He is active on Linkedin where you can view his detailed profile here:http://www.linkedin.com/in/paullaherty, follow him on twitter @Paul_Laherty or send questions to email@example.com.