As the European Union verges on its historic currency switch, the group most potentially confused non single-currency block tourists, stand to gain the most and Balearic economists believe that the euro will help the tourist industry, although it could spell the death of foreign exchange businesses. Once the new notes and coins start circulating Jan. 1 in the 12-nation euro zone, travellers can save the hassle and cost of changing money multiple times, avoiding commissions of up to 8 percent or more. It will be easier to comparison shop from country to country for everything from car rentals to clothing. Pockets will no longer bulge Spanish pesetas. At first, travellers should expect longer lines at foreign exchange outlets and shops, which will be handling both euros and outgoing local currencies during the phase-in period. Shoppers could pay more for some items, as stores round up prices when converting local currencies to the nearest euro decimal. It may be tough for tourists unfamiliar with European costs to figure out how much more they're paying. “It's important that you check your change,” said Nancy Muller, a spokeswoman for American Express, which operates 380 foreign exchange bureaux in the 12 nations adopting the euro. To avoid long queues abroad during the transition period - and to make sure you get what you pay for - experts recommend you use a credit card whenever possible. Outgoing currencies will be accepted until February 28 by businesses in most of the euro nations, including Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain. The exceptions are the Netherlands, until Jan. 27; Ireland, until Feb. 9; and France, until Feb. 17. Commercial banks will accept local currencies for many months after. But the currency exchange businesses, stand to lose out as citizens in euro zone countries exchange their national currencies for euros in a process expected to last until March. Some currency exchange companies believe that turnover will drop by more than a third next year as the national currencies of the euro zone countries are replaced by a single currency with just eight euro coins and seven euro notes. In some of Europe's favourite holiday destinations, some currency exchange businesses may not even survive the euro's arrival as tourists next year will no longer flood the country with marks, francs and guilders, but pay, like locals, in euros.

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