Cheap lira may tempt tourists

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The Independent Online
TOUR operators were hoping yesterday for an increase in their Italian business as British holidaymakers did their arithmetic after the devaluation of the lira.

Although the 7 per cent devaluation will not affect the price of an air ticket, operators are hoping for more business from tourists anxious to capitalise on cheaper hotels and food. Some may even be tempted to buy property, which has been more expensive than in France or Spain.

At present, 1.5 million Britons travel to Italy each year, and the holiday company Thomson hopes for more. A spokeswoman said: 'This has got to be good news for British tourists. They will get more for their money. It's a bit too early to say whether it will promote more sales but it will certainly create more interest.'

The Italian state tourist office agrees. 'Holidaymakers will now have more money to spend in Italy so the devaluation can only have a positive effect.'

There will be some benefit at home, although prices of cars and food will not come down for a while. When they do, the saving will be small. J Sainsbury, which buys Italian products including wine, cheese, fruit and pasta sauces, said it was too early to say what devaluation would mean for customers.

'We are buying some time ahead, even for things like cheese. It's too early for us to say as we put our orders in quite some time ahead,' a spokeswoman said.

It is unlikely that customers will be stampeding for the pasta when the lower prices come through, but there could be more interest in cars. A spokesman for Fiat, the Italian car maker, said: 'We will have to wait and see what happens in the financial markets. Any price changes will take some time to come through.'