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Weak U.S. dollar means unexpected bargains for foreign tourists

Weak U.S. dollar means unexpected bargains for foreign tourists
From Reuters - August 11, 2017

(Reuters) - Toshi Sugiyura and his wife Naka had a pleasant surprise awaiting them in San Francisco when the couple arrived from Japan on an anniversary trip, thanks to the U.S. dollar's months-long slide against the yen.

The 37-year-old business owner from Nagoya said the stronger yen gave them more dollars to buy gifts for their children.

"If the dollar keeps going down, maybe we will go to Hawaii," added Naka Sugiyura, 41.

The dollar's declining value this year is giving foreign visitors like the Sugiyuras unexpected purchasing power and will likely increase how much they spend on their holidays, travel experts said.

Solid gains by the euro, British pound, Chinese yuan and other major currencies against the dollar since the start of this year have been too recent to affect most travel decisions. Tourists typically lock in vacations months or even years ahead of time, experts said.

But travelers who had already booked for this summer are finding their home currencies are stretching further than six months ago.

"We could see more spending by those who already planned to come," said economist Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics in Philadelphia.

Brian Yong, a 45-year-old information technology engineer from Shanghai, said the yuan-friendly exchange rate made his two-week stay in San Francisco a better bargain and would let him to do more shopping.

"Lots of Chinese come here because of the exchange rate," Yong said.

Foreign visitors make a big contribution to the U.S. economy, with 75.6 million of them spending $244.7 billion last year, the Commerce Department said. Foreigners spent nearly $84 billion more than Americans spent in other countries.

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In New York City, by far the most popular U.S. destination for foreigners, officials hope stronger foreign currencies will translate into extra dollars for shopping, even if only at the margins.

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