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DOLLAR’S RISE MEANS BARGAIN PRICES IN EUROPE

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"The biggest news for travelers this summer is the skyrocketing value of the dollar in several European countries."

That's the word from Arthur Frommer, whose name is synonymous with budget travel.Now an authority on worldwide travel, Frommer got his start as the author of the original best-selling bargain travel book "Europe on $5 a Day" in 1957.

It costs more than a "fin" per day now, but Finland is among the places that have become "overnight" bargains, he said. Because of the dollar's increasing strength in recent months, American greenbacks are worth 50 percent more than they were last year in Finland. Frommer also said visiting Italy, Greece, Spain and Britain "is like traveling back in time."

In a recent visit to Greece, he found his dollar bought 220 drachmas, compared to 180 drachmas a year ago.

"You almost feel you're traveling in the l960s again," he said. "Outside of Athens, we rarely spent more than $40 a night for a double room - and meals generally cost $4 or $5."

"In Italy, the dollar is worth 1,500 lira, compared to 1,100 lira last year. That means a hotel room priced at $160 last year now costs less than $100 a night. In Britain, a pound is valued at $1.55, compared to $2 last year. In Spain, a dollar that was worth 90 pesetas last year now brings 116 pesatas."

However, travelers from here may want to skirt several other European countries where the dollar has not gained in value over the past year. Americans won't find similar bargains in Germany, France, Belgium or Holland, he reported.

In addition to directing the production of the Frommer's Travel Guide series - which now consists of more than 140 titles covering every major destination in the world - Frommer writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column and appears on a nightly TV show "Arthur Frommer's Almanac of Travel" on the Travel Channel.

The travel empire he heads today began inauspiciously with publication of "The GI's Guide to Traveling in Europe," which he wrote in his spare time while serving as a corporal in Army Intelligence in the early '50s. A graduate of Yale University Law School, he returned to practicing law in New York after his Army service. However, he decided in 1957 to publish a civilian version of the GI travel guide, "which had sold pretty well."

The subsequent success of "Europe on $5 a Day" prompted him to give up his law practice entirely and devote full time to the growing demands of his unanticipated career as a guru of the travel industry.

"I still am traveling somewhere nearly every week, because I can't do it all from a desk in New York - but I do spend all my weekends at home (in New York)," he said.

Frommer said his books "have a built-in obsolescence" because many have the year printed on the cover and all include restaurant prices and hours. Most are updated annually, and the rest are updated at least every other year, he said.

"Previously, travel guides simply listed restaurants as expensive, moderate or inexpensive," he said. "I began the practice of using prices and hours and it made other guide producers angry because their aim had been to produce books with an anticipated shelf life of six years."

About 140 different writers - each familiar with specific areas - now are employed and are listed as the authors of each of the "Frommer" guides to various cities and countries.