Just take a look around Madrid’s Puerta del Sol to find, without leaving the spot, three currency exchange offices. The activity of these businesses is closely linked to tourism and with the return to normality in international mobility flows, their activity has returned to normal channels. “In the months of July and August, 20% of the annual activity is concentrated,” they explain from Eurodivisas, one of the 15 companies authorized by the Bank of Spain to purchase currency and which has more than 350 offices around the world. , 54 of them in national territory.
“We prefer electronic payment, but we also carry cash in case an emergency occurs,” say two young people as they leave an establishment in Puerta del Sol. “We have come to exchange crowns because we are going to Sweden,” they conclude. From another of these companies, Ignacio Eguiagaray, head of payment systems at Exact Change, says that physical offices continue to enjoy good health despite the rise of electronic payment methods: “The option of going to the office is the most popular. , but it is true that online services have grown a lot.” Another option available to those who plan trips to countries with a different currency is to request home delivery of the currency in question, although Eguiagaray points out that people continue to feel “distrustful” of receiving an envelope with so much cash at home. “In the tourist plazas there are more and more offices on the streets (…) before in the Sol area there were two of us and now there are six,” he concludes.
In another office near the Teatro Real (Madrid) two women who leave one of these colorful establishments say that they have obtained pounds to travel to London on vacation. Although they explain that they prefer the convenience of digital payment methods, carrying an amount in cash gives them security. “In case there is any setback,” they conclude.
Their answers match the results of the study that the consulting firm Sigma Dos carried out for the currency exchange company Global Exchange, which belongs to Eurodivisas. According to this, of the 12,800 people questioned, 88.5% considered it necessary to carry cash in the currency of the country to which they were traveling, compared to 11.5% who considered it little or not at all necessary. Stina and Emelie are two of those people who don’t consider it too important. The young women, who navigate with two cars and five suitcases through the traffic of Barajas airport on the last Thursday of August, say that they are returning to Copenhagen after a year in Spain. They explain that during their stay they used to exchange through their bank and not through offices, so they have paid more with cards and mobile phones than in cash. However, before walking through the terminal, they show some coins and a ten euro bill. A souvenir, they joke.
The survey reveals that the country of origin of passengers who use cash the most on their trips is Turkey (99%) and the least is Denmark (86%). Eurodivisas emphasizes this, where they point out that payment habits worldwide change a lot depending on the regions and the most common thing is that people use a combination of cash and card or bizum. Giving tips, paying for transportation, a meal or a gift are the things on which respondents say they spend the most cash, according to the study.
A currency exchange branch in Gran Vía (Madrid). Bald Olmo
Near Cuatro Caminos, on Raimundo Fernández Villaverde Street in Madrid, the person in charge of the Money Exchange office explains that they are having a good summer, “although not as good as last year.” She says that what they most often exchange are dollars and pound sterling. In fact, according to the Border Tourist Expenditure and Movement Survey (FRONTUR), the United Kingdom is the one that provides the most visitors to Spain. And, on the other hand, the US tourism market grew by 17.4% until August, with the arrival of 1.8 million people from the United States to Spain. Tourist flows also have a great impact on the numbers of these offices.
To calculate the price of the money that they will offer to the user, these operators take into account the official exchange rate and also apply other costs that vary depending on the demand and availability in the financial market of currency in banknotes. In addition, real estate costs or possible fees, such as those charged at airports, also play a role. “We have been in airports for many years, but the bad thing about them is that the rents are so high that the price that must be given to the client is not favorable. In the end it leads you to having unhappy customers,” they explain from Exact Change. Although Eguiagaray clarifies that it is an “important” service that must be provided.
But this depends on each company, in the case of Global Exchange – present in five Spanish airports – the activity in the arrival terminals is an important part of their business and they point out that, in their case, they perceive that “more changes occur in the airports as they are the tourist’s first point of contact with their destination.”
In addition to the 15 companies in Spain dedicated to exchanging different currencies, there are almost 5,000 establishments authorized to purchase currency with payment exclusively in euros, according to the records of the Bank of Spain (BE). The latter, whose main activity is not exchanging money, but are hotels, retailers, travel agencies and companies of all kinds, are located above all in tourist areas such as the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Benidorm, Marbella, Barcelona or Madrid.
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