Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: March 11, 2004 March 11, 2004 Share 1 -- SPRING FLING: The Merrion Hotel in Dublin welcomes spring with two special rates for April stays, both priced at more than 50% off rack. The Spring Break Special, priced at about $145 per person, per night, double occupancy -- a 56% savings -- offers deluxe, double-room accommodations in the hotel's Garden Wing, full Irish breakfast and all taxes, for stays April 5 to 17. Also available during the same time period is the hotel's "Off to the Races" special priced around $169 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. The rate includes all the Spring Break Special perks, plus two tickets to the Gold Label Irish Grand National Horse Race on April 12. Travel agent commission is 10% for both plans. To book these rates, contact Leading Hotels of the World at (800) 223-6800 or www.lhw.com, or The Crown Collection at (800) 628-8929 or email@example.com. Or, contact the Merrion Hotel direct at (011) 353-1 603-0600, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.merrionhotel.comDOLLAR-WISE: The Merrion also instituted a "dollar-guarantee" promotion on all rack rate bookings for single and double rooms and suites in its Main House (or deluxe) accommodations through Aug. 3. The rates will offer savings of up to 30%, depending on the value of the dollar against the euro, based on a minimum guaranteed exchange rate of $1.15 to 1 euro. The Crown Collection also is offering a "dollar guarantee" three-night stay at the property for two in deluxe double or superior Garden Wing room, including breakfast daily, for $1,350 per couple.CLEAR THE AIR: Nonsmokers can brave Ireland's once-hazy pubs come March 29, when the country's ban on workplace smoking starts clearing the air in restaurants and bars nationwide. CIE Tours offers an Irish Pub and Folk Tour that focuses on some of Ireland best soon-to-be smoke-free pubs, venerable institutions that "are not just for drinking," according to firm president Brian Stack. The seven-night tour -- priced from $1,160 per person, double, with air from New York (Kennedy), Boston or Baltimore -- departs every Sunday through Nov. 14; land-only rates also are available from $847. Pub-related highlights include a dinner and ballad session at the Abbey Tavern in Dublin; dinner/entertainment at Bunratty Irish Ceili at Bunratty; and tours and tastings at the Guinness Storehouse, Old Jameson Distillery and Kinsale Brewing Co. CIE Tours pays 10% commission on land and varied rates on air fares. For more, call (800) 243-8687 or visit www.cietours.com.FLY AWAY: Sceptre Ireland is awarding travel agents two free roundtrip air tickets to Ireland for every 10 bookings made with the Lynbrook, N.Y.-based operator by March 31, for travel through Dec. 31. For more information, call (800) 221-0924 or visit www.sceptreireland.com.NO STRINGS: Irish airports authority Aer Rianta began offering wireless Internet access at Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports. Wireless connectivity, available in departure lounges and other airport "congregation points," will be provided free through June 30, to coincide with Ireland's six-month-long European Union presidency. Areas where wireless Internet access is provided are known as "Wi-Fi hotspots" and are indicated by airport signage; promotional materials advise consumers on how to access and use the service. Aer Rianta plans to have fee-based wireless Internet facilities available for hire at Dublin Airport before the end of June, followed by subsequent availability at Shannon and Cork. For more, go to www.aerrianta.ie.MORE ROOMS, INNS: Irish hotel-management company the Prem Group signed a $12 million, 10-year development deal with Cendant International, which franchises more than 6,400 hotels on five continents. Under the deal, the Dublin-based Prem Group will manage the opening of 12 Wingate hotels and 18 Days hotel operations in Ireland over a five-year period. The first Wingate hotel in Ireland will be the 40-room Wingate-Hibernian Hotel in Ballsbridge in Dublin, followed by Tulfarris Hotel & Golf Resort in Blessington, County Wicklow. The Days development programme will include rebranding properties in Talbot Street and Rathmines, in Dublin. The Prem Group currently operates seven hotels in Ireland. For more, visit www.premgroup.com.