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Let the cultural battle commence

4th February 2010 Print

New Post Office Travel Money research suggests that a combination of exchange rates and living costs may prove the deciding factor in a curious three-cornered fight to attract short break visitors between 2010’s European Cultural Capitals – Istanbul (Turkey), Pécs (Hungary) and the Ruhr Metropolis (Germany).

Culture vultures have a year of events to choose from as the three Culture Capitals seek to cash in on their heritage and arts attractions. The most obvious winner stands to be Istanbul, which has lined up an impressive calendar of events. In a year when Turkey became the top short haul destination with 44 per cent more Turkish lira sales in Post Office branches, Istanbul saw a 23 per cent rise in UK visitors.

But the cost of tourist items researched for the new Post Office Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer has risen by 44 per cent in Turkey, which is likely to wipe out any benefit that UK visitors can gain from sterling’s partial recovery since last January.

In marked contrast, Hungary was the cheapest of 30 countries surveyed by the Post Office for the annual Holiday Money Report, just published, and is likely to benefit from having a weak currency.

Sarah Munro, Post Office Head of Travel Money, said: “With rising prices in Turkey and cheaper costs in Hungary, there is some justification for thinking that Pécs is limbering up for a cultural contest in which it could wrest the spotlight from Istanbul.”

The dark horse will be Germany’s Ruhr Metropolis, hampered by its eurozone status, but with a unique industrial heritage to showcase as it mounts its opening event in the former coalmining complex and World Heritage Site of Zeche Zollverein. Its ability to attract visitors may rest with the value of sterling against the euro – currently weaker by almost nine per cent than at the same time in 2009.

All three will have to work hard to keep their prices down to the levels of Warsaw, Lisbon and Prague, the three cheapest cities in the most recent Post Office Cost of Culture report, which surveyed the costs of a highbrow mix of galleries, museums, heritage sites and arts performances in 16 cultural capitals.

Information about the European Capitals of Culture and other issues or events that look set to shape 2010 holiday choice can be found in the fourth annual Holiday Money Report from Post Office Travel Money, the UK’s largest provider of foreign currency. The report also reviews 2009, identifying significant currency movements and emerging travel trends.

UK travellers considering trips to one of the 2010 Capitals of Culture can change their pounds into Turkish lira on demand at 4,000 Post Office branches, while over 8,500 branches offer euro currency on demand. Hungarian forints can be pre-ordered at 12,000 Post Office branches or online at for next day branch or home delivery.