Travel Weekly's Europe E-letter: Aug. 4, 2004

BACK ON TRACK: Travel to Europe is back and bigger than ever, according to the European Travel Commission in New York. The 33-nation marketing group said that U.S. visits to Europe were up through June, indicating possible growth of between 10% to 13% for this years peak season. As proof, the ETC cited Dept. of Commerce figures showing 929,359  U.S. arrivals in April, up nearly 37% from the same month last year, and preliminary figures showing a rise in eastbound transatlantic traffic of 25% in May and 16% in June. For more on the ETCs member countries, go to www.visiteurope.com.

SLOWER GROWTH: But the British Incoming Tour Operators Association (BITOA) in London takes a more measured view, noting overseas arrivals in the U.K. Americans favorite European destination fell to "a more modest, but equally welcome, 3.8% growth rate in June, down from 19.8% growth in March, 19.2% in April and 9.2% in May compared with 2003. Prospects for further growth this year remain uncertain, said the BITOA, largely thanks to the weak U.S. dollar vs. an increasingly strong pound sterling, coupled with volatile stock markets. The group said aggressive marketing and keen pricing by inbound operators will be crucial to continue the positive trends seen in the first half of 2004. For more, see www.bitoa.co.uk.

FAB FOUR TOUR: Its been 40 years since the Fab Four first hit U.S. shores, and Icelandair Holidays is offering Beatles-themed weeks in Britain priced from $999 per person, double. The Ticket to Fly package includes roundtrip air from Baltimore/Washington (BWI), New York (Kennedy), Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul or Orlando, Fla.; two nights hotel both in London and Liverpool; one night in Manchester; daily continental breakfast; a Rock & Roll Legends day tour in London; rail transportation between London, Liverpool and Manchester; and a flight between Manchester and Glasgow. Departures starting at the $999 price (before taxes, surcharges and fees) are on Fridays from Oct. 1 to May 15. Commission IS 10%. Call Icelandair Holidays at (800) 779-2899 or visit www.icelandair.com.

ART NOUVEAU ON THE GO: Tourism officials in trendy Scottish destination Glasgow introduced a one-price pass that enables visitors unlimited access to citys many noted art nouveau monuments. The new Charles Rennie Mackintosh Trail ticket from the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley Tourist Board costs about $18 and includes free bus and subway system transportation. Its named for a leading proponent of whats termed the the Glasgow style of architecture. Attractions covered by the ticket include the Glasgow School of Art, Queens Cross Church, Willow Tea Room, the Daily Record Building, the Hill House at Helensburgh, the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian Gallery and the Lighthouse center for architecture and design. The ticket is available from the citys tourist information centers or online at www.crmsociety.com. For more general information on Glasgow, visit www.seeglasgow.com.

JOLLY GOOD TIME: Jolly Hotels is offering half-off stays to travel agents, and discounted deals to consumers, at its 49 Italian and other European properties through December. Sample discounted nightly room rates for retailers, based on double occupancy, include $81 in Naples, $87.50 in Rome, $90 in London, and $100 in Milan. Jolly also is peddling hot deals for clients headed to Brussels, Cologne, London and Paris: Rates start at $84 per person per night based on single or double occupancy with most offers valid through October. For example, the Jolly Hotel Lotti in Paris is offering a four-night getaway at $546 per person, double, through Oct. 31, including daily breakfast. Commission information was not available at press time; for more, visit www.jollyhotels.com, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or call (800) 221-2626.

ANOTHER NIGHT: Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts announced a Stay and Save campaign offering free extra nights at 11 of its luxury resorts in Europe from Sept. 1 until Feb. 28. Under the plan, clients paying for four nights stay one extra night free; those paying for five nights get two nights free; and with seven paid nights, guests stay three extra nights free. For example, five nights (with one free night) at Le Meridien Penina Golf and Resort in the Algarve, Portugal, usually cost from about $701, but the Stay and Save rate starts from about $563, a savings of $138. The 10 other resorts offering the plan are Le Meridien Limassol Spa and Resort, Cyprus; Le Meridien Garden Beach, Juan-les-Pins, France; Le Meridien Nice, France; Le Meridien Grand Hotel Palazzo della Fonte, Fiuggi , Italy; Le Meridien Rimini, Italy; Le Meridien Chia Laguna, Sardinia; Le Meridien Villon, Vilnius, Lithuania; Le Meridien Beach Plaza, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Le Meridien Dona Filipa, Algarve, Portugal; and Le Meridien Moscow Country Club, Russia. Commission information was not available at press time; visit www.lemeridien.com or call (800) 543-4300.

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