by Lisa Grimaldi | November 01, 2007


Live large in Lisbon:

The euro may reign,
but the dollar still
gets good value in
Portugal and its capital city.

With the U.S. dollar at an all-time low against major foreign currencies like the euro and the pound (at press time, one euro was equal to US$1.42; one British pound equaled US$2), and with the Canadian dollar now equal to its U.S. counterpart, the diminished buying power of the dollar is a huge conundrum for many organizations that meet outside the United States.

In fact, according to M&C’s 2007 Global Planner Survey, 69 percent of corporate meeting planners and 80 percent of association planners say favorable exchange rates are an important consideration when selecting a destination for their international events. But while the most popular meeting and incentive destinations of Europe and Canada might be priced out of reach for many U.S. groups, there are plenty of places where greenbacks still go a long way.

Following are our picks for the best international buys for U.S. meetings and events abroad, based on favorable currency exchange rates (for latest rates in more than 80 currencies, go to; the 2007 Cost of Living Survey conducted by New York City-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting, an annual ranking of 143 global cities based on factors including food, transportation and entertainment costs; the Hotel Benchmark Survey by Deloitte (for the first half of 2007), and input from industry experts. Of course, the cost of air transportation from your attendees’ hub cities is another factor to consider when weighing affordability.

Riga, capital of Latvia

Baltic bargain:
Riga, the picturesque
capital of Latvia,
has been called
“the new Prague.”


With the euro holding sway over the dollar, it makes sense for planners to look to countries on the continent that have not adopted it as their official currency. Among those deemed a good value (and with good infrastructure) for U.S. groups: Poland, where the average daily hotel room rate in Warsaw is US$120, according to Deloitte. Values also can be found in Hungary and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Patricia Durocher, managing director of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based site-selection firm HelmsBriscoe International, is a big fan of Latvia and its capital, Riga. “It’s the new Prague,” she says. In recent years, she adds, “multinational companies have flocked there to set up offices, and low-cost carriers followed, making Riga easily accessible from almost anywhere in Europe. And then came the hoteliers. More than 30 properties were developed in 2005-’06 alone. For HelmsBriscoe associates, Riga ranks in the top five destinations booked during the first five months of 2007.”

Other high-value European countries that eschew the euro are Bulgaria, Montenegro and Slovenia. While HelmsBriscoe sources recommend the Croatian capital of Zagreb, they say the country’s resort areas are bargains only during the off-season (fall, winter and early spring).

Surprisingly, one country that uses the euro -- Portugal -- made our list. The capital, Lisbon, is very affordable compared with other Western European capitals, according to Durocher. “Keep in mind that most hotels here quote rates inclusive of VAT, taxes and services, while most other destinations quote rates exclusive of these elements,” she says.

The country also was lauded for its low hotel prices (according to Deloitte, the average room rate in Lisbon for the first half of 2007 was US$137) and proximity of the airport to the capital, which minimizes ground transportation costs.