Simon Calder: We are no longer the rich men of Europe

Ask yourself this: how many French francs did you get to the pound? About 10, wasn't it? Well, British holidaymakers in France have rarely had it so bad as this summer. The rate for the franc was frozen against the euro when the single European currency entered circulation, and an easy calculation reveals that the exchange rate of €1.22 works out at just eight francs to the pound.

For anyone who still travels by air, the more recent slump against the dollar is even more worrying. The US will, of course, be more expensive. But because everything in aviation is priced in dollars, a 10 per cent slide in sterling pushes up airlines costs by about the same proportion. Prepare for more route cuts and higher fares.

The outlook for next summer could be even gloomier for the package holidaymaker. Tour operators who wisely hedged against rises in the value of the euro and the price of oil will have no such protection in 2009, pushing up holiday costs dramatically.

The silver lining for these darkening clouds is likely to be earned by the UK travel industry. This should be the best summer for years as Brits holiday at home and Europeans find us no longer an over-priced island with a lousy climate. The weather may not have changed, but we are no longer the rich men of Europe – they are.

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