Travel Weekly's Ireland E-Letter: February 27, 2003 February 27, 2003 Share 1 -- HEAD OF THE CLASS: The U.S. agent community's response to Tourism Ireland's 2003 Selling Ireland Travel Agent Seminars was stellar, according to the all-Ireland promotional body. Close to 5,000 retail agents in 40 cities attended the January and February events, just shy of the record attendance of 5,400 back in bumper year 2001. That's despite an estimated decrease of 20% to 25% in total agency base in the last 12 months. "The caliber and professionalism of the 'new' travel agent was very high, with many indicating that Ireland is performing better than other European destinations," said a Tourism Ireland spokeswoman. "The Irish trade partners who participated in the promotion found it very beneficial." The event attracted 55 supplier participants, including 30 from the Republic of Ireland, 20 from the U.S. and five from Northern Ireland. REWARDING IRELAND: Brian Moore International Tours, a Far&Wide company, is discounting all of its "Far&Wide's Rewards to Ireland" escorted tours by $100 this year, and has lopped even more -- $200 -- off its Best of Ireland itinerary. Sample pricing on BMIT's offerings -- all with air from Baltimore/Washington, Boston or New York (Kennedy) -- good for travel through October when booked by March 17, ranges from $849 for the six-night Irish Spree to Bunratty, Dublin, Galway and Killarney to $999 for the discounted Best of Ireland, an eight-night tour of the country's most popular cities. Meanwhile, the seven-night Leisurely Ireland, priced from $989, includes three nights at Dublin's Camden Court Hotel and four nights at the Killarney Towers Hotel. Packages include accommodations, most meals, guided motorcoach transport, sightseeing, entertainment, taxes and service fees. Agent commission ranges from 10% to 15%. For more information, call BMIT at (800) 982-2299 or visit www.bmit.com.PRONOUNCE IT "PORT-LEESHA": The nine-month-old Heritage Portlaoise, a 110-room, four-star hotel in Ireland's County Laois ("Leash"), is offering a special overnight rate in March of 99 euros (about $106) per person, double, including bed and breakfast for two and one dinner. The hotel does not pay commission on this special. Standard nightly rates -- always commissionable at 10% -- run about $101, single, to around $182, double, including bed and breakfast, service fees and VAT. The Heritage Portlaoise, one hour outside Dublin, features three bars, two restaurants, a fitness club and a beauty spa, among other amenities. For details, call (011) 353-5 027-8588, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.theheritagehotel.com.UP TO PAR: Ireland's first Marriott property, the five-star Druids Glen Marriott Hotel & Country Club in Newtownmountkennedy, 20 miles south of Dublin, gets a second gold course this fall with the debut of the 7,000-yard, 18-hole Druids Heath. The 137-room, 11-suite property already sits astride the existing Druids Glen course, which hosted four Irish Opens from 1996 to 1999 and was voted European Golf Course of the Year in 2000 by Hertz International Travel Awards. Notable features of the new course include views of the Irish Sea; the 11th hole, a par-5 of over 500 yards tumbling downhill to a complex defense system; the par-3 12th hole, with the green 230 yards away across water; and pulpit greens at holes 9 and 18. For information about golf breaks at the Druids Glen Marriott Hotel & Country Club, call director of sales and marketing Vari McGreevy at (011) 353-1-287-0806 or e-mail email@example.com. For reservations, call Marriott International at (800) 228-9290 or visit www.marriott.com.THREE-LEAFED CLOVER: Don't forget to check out Tourism Ireland's Shamrock Club destination specialist Web site at www.shamrockclub.net/register. The site offers online registration, detailed benefits and contact and technical information for prospective members. Once you've joined the 5,800-odd other travel agents who've already signed up, you can log on to the recently upgraded site for access to online education and certification modules, and other features. For more information, contact Tourism Ireland's Breeda Burns at (212) 418-0842 or John Daly at (212) 418-0835, or visit www.shamrockclub.net/register.