Travel Weeklys Europe E-letter: Aug. 18, 2004

BIG DEALS: Auto Europe vacation-packaging arm Destination Europe introduced first-class air packages that offer discounts of up to 20% on published fares, along with 12% commission to travel agents. Sample first-class packages for London, Paris or Rome from seven U.S. gateways range from $9,849 to $11,377 per person, double occupancy, including roundtrip, first-class air fare; seven-day Mercedes-Benz rental, with Global Positioning System (GPS) and cell phone; and two nights deluxe hotel with taxes, service charges and daily breakfast. Options available include chauffeur-driven transfers, luxury car rentals with GPS, nights in Leading Hotels of the World, Eurostar packages and cell phone rentals; packages are available for over 100 cities in Europe. Call (888) 223-5555 or visit www.autoeurope.com/tasite online.

SPAIN PAINTS: The Prado Museum in Madrid offers a once-in-a-lifetime retrospective of Spanish portraiture this fall and winter with "The Spanish Portrait: From El Greco to Picasso" show. The exhibit, to run from Oct. 20 to Feb. 6 in the Central Gallery and Room 12, will present 84 masterpieces tracing the history of the portrait in Spain from the late 15th century through the early 20th century. Included are works -- some never seen before or ever exhibited at the Prado -- by El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Miro and Picasso. The Prado Museum is open daily, except Mondays, New Years Day and Christmas, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; admission is about $3.60 daily except Sundays, when it is free. Students, youth and senior citizens enter free or at a discount. For more, contact the Tourist Office of Spain in New York at (212) 265-8822 or www.okspain.org.

MOVING ON: The Romanian National Tourist Office in New York has relocated and also changed its e-mail address. Address all letters and other "snail mail" to 355 Lexington Ave., Floor 19, New York, N.Y. 10017; meanwhile, e-mails should now be fired off to [email protected]. The RNTOs main telephone number (212-545-8484) and fax number (212-251-0429) remain the same; however, telephone number 212-447-9058 is no longer in service. For more on Romania, visit www.RomaniaTourism.com online.

UK LUXURY PACT: British tourist board VisitBritain and agency consortium Virtuoso struck a marketing and sales pact designed to position England, Scotland and Wales as preferred destinations for Virtuoso specialist agents. VisitBritain will provide Virtuoso agencies with exclusive offers -- as well as access to its BritAgent online agent training program and new Booking Britain online sales guide -- and will engage preferred suppliers in "direct marketing activities to showcase ... British products." In return, Virtuoso will promote Britain to its customer database of some 1 million affluent leisure travelers and distribute VisitBritains new luxury travel magazine, "So British," to its member specialist agents.

AIR WOES: Delays may be in store for British Airways (BA) passengers flying in and out of U.K. airports later this summer, as unionized terminal workers voted to go on strike over pay. On Aug. 13, 53% of some 3,000 BA check-in staff, mainly at Londons Heathrow and Gatwick airports, who belong to the GMB union -- Britains largest -- voted in favor of job actions. Union leadership has three weeks in which to call a strike, but must give seven days notice of any action. And things could get even worse: Thousands of Transport and General Workers Union members at six British airports were also set to vote on strike actions sometime before Aug. 18. For its part, the airline said in a statement that any strikes would cause significant damage to its finances and reputation. The unions reportedly rejected a pay offer worth 8.5% to 10.5 % over three years.

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