Record numbers of Europeans are flocking to New York this fall -- prime holiday shopping season -- as the dollar sinks to new lows against the euro and British pound. New York expects roughly 1 million western Europeans this month and December, 5% more than last year, says George Fertitta, CEO of tourism agency NYC & Co. Helping to boost Big Apple tourism: killer deals on merchandise because of an exchange rate that favors euros and pounds.
"A new class of Europeans are coming to America totally because of currency," says George Malkemus, president of luxury shoe retailer Manolo Blahnik USA.
Malkemus says he's selling more shoes from his Manhattan store than ever to Europeans despite there also being a London store. Shoppers can pay $600 for a pair of shoes that in London would cost the equivalent of $823.
The pre-holiday surge comes despite average hotel rates of $325 a night, or 10% more than last year, Smith Travel Research data show.
Last week, the dollar sank to its lowest level ever against the euro, and to its lowest level against the pound in 26 years. One euro is worth $1.47. One pound is worth $2.06.
Foreigners also are snapping up U.S. real estate and could target U.S. companies if the dollar continues to erode, says Omer Esiner, a market analyst at currency trader Ruesch International.
The chance to stock their Christmas tree for less prompted Dubliners Con and Therese Clarke to book two pre-holiday trips to New York instead of the one they normally take. They want to shop at Jersey Gardens, a sprawling outlet mall in Elizabeth, N.J.
The Clarkes will stay in Manhattan at the Irish-owned Fitzpatrick hotel, which this fall filled up with more Europeans than in any other year, says Pauline Richaud, a hotel spokeswoman.
Tiffany & Co. on Tuesday sounded like a cacophony of European voices.
Britons Sara and Diarmuid Tiernan of Norfolk, along with their young son, George, were headed inside the store to look at bracelets. They already did some shopping that morning at Saks Fifth Avenue and the Palm store.
Diarmuid Tiernan said he surprised his wife with the four-night trip to "sightsee and shop." But, Sara quickly added, "more for shopping."
Trans-Atlantic airlines and tour operators such as London-based Virgin Holidays and Paris-based Kuoni say travel to New York is more popular than last year.
"It is known here in Europe that when you go to New York, you take two suitcases -- one empty," Kuoni's Maureen Lachant says.
Contributing: Laura Petrecca