LONDON — Harry's Bar in Venice, a landmark where novelist Ernest Hemingway and other celebrities used to hold court, is offering a 20 percent discount on food for "American victims" of a bad economy.

Britain's tourism agency, VisitBritain, is letting Americans buy discount cards in dollars so they can see the sights for less.

Ireland is trying to entice Yanks with a new advertising campaign: "Ireland, Can you afford not to go?"

The "rich American tourist" of years past is now viewed as a poor cousin. Europeans who count Americans as their No. 1 source of tourists fear they are staying away because of the economic downturn, combined with a weak dollar that is trading at a record low against the euro and a 16-year low against the British pound.

"We have less and less Americans in Paris," says Thomas Deschamps of the Paris Convention and Visitors Office.

Paris saw a 5.5 percent drop in U.S. tourists last year, about 90,000 fewer than the almost 1.6 million in 2006, Deschamps says.

Looking ahead, Amy Ziff of Travelocity says bookings for countries that use the euro, such as France, Italy and Spain, are 15 percent lower than last summer. But bookings are up 16 percent for Eastern European counties that don't use the euro, she says.

The travel group AAA, however, says its summer bookings for all of Europe are up 5 percent compared with last year. Even France could see more Americans, AAA predicts.

Trips by Americans to the land of Big Ben fell 3.7 percent last year to 3.75 million, says Elliott Frisby of VisitBritain. Those who did visit spent 8.1 percent less than in 2006, suggesting tourists are pinching pennies. "The credit crunch is biting," he says.

Veteran European travelers, like John Kun, 55, of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation in Washington, notice the climbing costs. "Everything from an American perspective seems high — hotels, food," says Kun, who vacationed in London, Paris, Venice and Rome in April.

Ruth Moran of Tourism Ireland says her agency chose to confront the cost issue. The campaign is tied to guaranteed airfare and hotel prices, with sightseeing discounts. The hope, Moran says, is letting people know the cost will ease some of the pocketbook strain.

VisitBritain launched a more personal approach by encouraging Americans to connect with "British friends" to find the best spots for fish and chips or a pint of beer.

Paris, where Americans remain the top visitors, hasn't adopted any new marketing schemes yet.

"It's not that easy," Deschamps says. "This is something we cannot really fight."

By the numbers

Typical costs in London:

• Pint of beer: $5.

• One-way subway fare: $8.

• Fish and chips: $13.

• Fast-food hamburger: $6.

• Gallon of gasoline: $10.

• Cab from Heathrow Airport to central London: $110.

Source: USA TODAY research


Barbara De Lollis in McLean, Va. contributed to this story.