THE pound sterling has reached parity with the euro in West Somerset – ahead of the currency’s falling value on the world’s money markets.
A number of shops and businesses in the medieval village of Dunster have agreed to accept payment for goods and services in either euros or pounds and are counting both as the same value.
They are believed to be the first in the country to do so, hoping that the move could bring a trading boost, especially from European visitors.
The Dunster initiative was started in the run up to Christmas by Yarn Market Hotel owner Antony Brunt, who is also chairman of the Exmoor Tourist Association.
Mr Brunt had seen how the one-for-one exchange rate helped Northern Ireland businesses when the value of the pound dropped and brought shoppers across the border from the Republic of Ireland.
Now, several other businesses in the village have joined in.”
Mr Brunt said: “There is a near parity at the moment on the exchange rate and I thought we could go that little bit further and give some incentive to visitors with the New Year coming up.
“With what has been happening in Ireland, people going across the border to get a good deal, we thought we could do something similar.
“Tourism is one of the major industries in Dunster, so we need to keep doing things to attract those tourists.
“We feel customers need to be given that extra incentive, especially customers from overseas and European customers.
“Everyone has been talking about doom and gloom in the tourism industry, but if you are proactive and get what business is out there, it can turn the current climate into a success.
“The currency status at the moment is going to encourage UK visitors to stay in the UK and it is going to make the UK more appealing for foreign tourists.
“I think there is a great market in Europe. England is a lot cheaper now. It is a wonderful opportunity for UK tourism.”
Mark Phillips, owner of clothes shop Coastal Living, said: “We get a large percentage of European visitors and it just makes sense at the moment.
“I also think it is a good idea because it will make us more welcoming to tourists using the euro and could prove a boost to trade.
“We receive a lot of Italian and Scandinavian visitors and this is a positive gesture towards them.
'”Of course, I will keep an eye on the exchange rate and we can only do this if the near-parity continues.”