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Foreign exchange

Pricey euro weighs heavily on Yanks headed for Cannes

PARIS – If you happen to be reading this over an espresso on the terrace of Cannes’ Hotel Majestic, better reach for the plastic.

The days when the dollar packed a lot of punch in Europe have been replaced by a punishing exchange rate with the euro — as any small purchase in Cannes makes apparent.

It all adds up
A sampling of prices awaiting Cannes fest visitors:

Taxi from Nice airport to the Croisette = €60-€70 ($71-$83)
Taxi from the Croisette to Hotel du Cap = €40 ($48)
Half-hour four-hand massage at Hotel Martinez spa = €110 ($131)
A Bellini at the Hotel du Cap = €24 ($29)
A cafe au lait and a croissant at Noga Hilton bar = €6.50 ($7.74)
Cornetto or Magnum ice cream from kiosk on the Croisette = €2.80 ($3.33) and €3.30 ($3.94), respectively
Glass of wine at Noga Hilton bar = €4.50 ($5.36)
Ticket for the Monaco Grand Prix (on May 23) = €50-€420 ($60-$500)

Planning dinner for two at your favorite haunt overlooking the port? For those who fondly remember ordering the pick of the menu and guzzling a decent bottle of red for under $100, things have changed quite a bit. Without counting price increases, the meal is likely to set you back 10% more than it did last year, when the dollar had already dipped 20% below the previous year.

Fortunately, the folks at the Cannes festival and market have tried to soften the blow a bit this year. Not only did they freeze prices on market accreditation, exhibition and screening fees — they went beyond. While artistic director Thierry Fremaux busied himself these past months begging studio chiefs to risk a Cannes preem for their latest blockbuster, behind the scenes fest brass did some sweet-talking on the Croisette.

The result? Many hotels have kept their prices to 2003 levels, while nearly 20 area restaurants are offering special deals during the festival. “We met with hoteliers and restaurateurs back in December with the aim of persuading them to make a gesture toward all the people whose spending power has been affected by the strength of the euro,” explains Cannes Market topper Jerome Paillard. “A lot have responded by keeping their prices down.”

As for Cannes hotel rooms — which have always been exorbitant by French standards — the lowest priced double room at the Hotel Martinez has been maintained at last year’s charge — a throwaway at S490 ($584).

“Normally the price would have gone up 3% but we have around 200 rooms that we have held at 2003 rates,” says Christophe Aldunate, the hotel’s resident manager.

But when all is said and done, the high rollers will more than make up for any discounts the hotel may be offering. The Martinez’s seventh-floor four-bedroom suite — fully booked for the duration of the fest — goes for an eye-popping S24,000 ($28,587) a night.

Not surprisingly, as they gear up for their busiest fortnight of the year, Cannes shopkeepers and restaurateurs are keeping the relative thriftiness of their international film biz clientele in perspective. Says Yves Martin, chef and proprietor of popular eatery La Mere Besson: “Americans here for the Cannes Film Festival don’t look at the prices.”

Touche.

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