Some may say that Europe?s sagging tourism scene may be unable to resuscitate itself in 2009. There are certainly enough indicators to support that belief: U.S. visits to Europe dropped 9 percent in September 2008, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce. That completed a peak season (May through September) in which U.S. visits declined 7.3 percent, the first peak-season decline since 2002.

In fact, last year ended well short of the record 13.33 million U.S. visits to Europe in 2007. All told, travel to Europe by Americans was down 4.8 percent in the first eight months of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. As we enter 2009, U.S. travel appears to be dropping at a steeper rate?10 percent or more.

In addition, it may be harder for Americans to get to Europe in 2009. More airlines are considering mergers as passenger demand declines, which will result in fewer flights. For example, British Airways has been in talks with Spain?s Iberia and American Airlines as worldwide air travel fell for a third consecutive month in November. Virgin Atlantic Airways recently announced it is slashing fares and may trim seats to ride out a slump in demand for air travel.

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