Travel Weekly's Europe E-letter: November 9, 2005

STRONG VISITOR NUMBERS for August 2005 have Irish tourism officials seeing green, according to the latest statistics on overseas travel from Irelands Central Statistics Office. Overall, visitor numbers climbed 4.5% in August over the same period in 2004, including a jump of nearly 7,000 from North America. The news comes on the heels of a slow start in the first half of 2005, and based on early returns for September, the upward trend is expected to continue.

 

ROCCO FORTE HOTELS is gearing up to reopen Londons posh Browns Hotel, an historic property that has undergone a 20-month, $33 million renovation. Set for a Dec. 12 debut, the hotel revamped each of its 117 guest rooms with a mix of antiques and high tech amenities. Also new will be a restaurant called Browns Grill and a refurbished English Tea Room. For more, call (800) 223-6800 or visit www.roccofortehotels.com.

 

THE LONG-AWAITED $110 million expansion of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid was officially unveiled this fall by the Queen of Spain. The museum, known for its collection of 20th century art, more than doubled its exhibition space, bringing the square footage to 904,000. Three new steel and glass buildings house two large galleries, a library and an auditorium, all of which are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Next on the horizon is a $38 million, four-year refurbishment of the museums original building, set to begin later this year. For more, call (011) 34 99 774 1000 or visit www.museoreinasofia.es.

 

TRAVEL AGENT COMMISSOINS on Brian Moore International Tours 2006 escorted tours start at 15%, with rates on independent and land packages ranging from 12% to 14%. The newly launched brochure, which offers 11 escorted tours with new itineraries in Ireland, Scotland and combined Britain and Ireland, has been tweaked to offer participants more independence. The company also added a Britain Rail program, beefed up its hotel collection in Britain and expanded its menu of self-drive vacations in Britain and Ireland. The 2006 brochure has boosted its number of guaranteed departures to 75 dates. Check out (800) 982-2299 or www.bmit.com for more.

 

THE TONEY, 64-ROOM Hotel Byblos Courchevel in the French Alps, set to open for the winter season on Dec. 20, is luring winter sports enthusiasts with a five-night Powder and Pampering package that includes accommodations, an hour-long massage at the Byblos Health Club, buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner and a four-day lift ticket. The package is priced at $485 per person, per night, with a five-night minimum. A three-night Courchevel Escapade special costs $460. Both packages run throughout the season, except for Dec. 21 to Jan. 14, 2006. For more, contact (011) 334 79 00 98 00 or log onto www.byblos.com.

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