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Favorable exchange rates will increase travel to Eastern Europe this summer

Summer vacation bookings to Eastern Europe are skyrocketing, says AAA, North America’s largest full-service leisure travel agency.

AAA travel professionals attribute the increased interest in Eastern European countries to favorable exchange rates, less crowding, and the desire for new experiences. Based on travel taking place June to August of this year, tour bookings to Europe in general are down slightly by 2.4% compared to last summer, while travel to Eastern Europe is up by 55%. Travel to Croatia is up by 69%, Slovenia is up by 100%, Poland is up 10%, Hungary is up 76% and bookings to Romania are up an incredible 700%.

The data is based on AAA travel agency bookings through May 1, 2007. In comparison, Italy and Germany are down .7% and 43% respectively. Travel to the UK is down 1.9% and Ireland is down 10.4%. However, travel to France is up 40% this summer. “Americans love Western Europe, and the UK, France and Italy continue to be top destinations,” say Sandy Hughes, vice president of AAA Travel. “But many are choosing to visit countries where the dollar stretches further and the crowds are lighter. “Places like Poland, Croatia and Hungary appeal to repeat visitors who have already cut their teeth on the classic icons of Western Europe,” adds Hughes.

“These travelers are looking for wider adventures on the continent and bragging rights as the first among their friends to visit places like Warsaw and Budapest.” Increased air service to Eastern Europe, positive media coverage of that part of the world and increased tourism promotion have also increased interest in Eastern European travel. With some 1,100 travel agencies and $3.9 billion in sales, AAA travel offers the International Driving Permit and assistance expediting passport applications. AAA also offers maps and travel guides including Europe road atlases, Essential Guides to several European cities and the AAA Europe TravelBookTM guide.

For travelers looking to save money before they go, AAA offices are the leading seller of Traveler’s Cheques (which are discounted for AAA members), while Visa Travel Money Cards and AAA Visa credit cards help travelers save money when using credit and debit cards in Europe. In addition, there are more than 29,000 locations in Europe where travelers can save with their AAA membership card. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 50 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, AAA, a not-for-profit corporation and the oldest and largest federation of motor clubs in the country, has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. (