Travel Weekly's Europe E-letter: June 23, 2004

RAIL EUROPE GROUP said its first-quarter sales of European rail passes in North America were 45% higher than the same period in 2003, and 10% higher than first-quarter 2002. Fabrice Morel, president and CEO of the Rail Europe Group said growth was strongest for one- and two-country railpasses and point-to-point tickets, "which are ideally suited to today's shorter, more geographically-focused itineraries." To wit, first-quarter sales of one- and two-country railpasses at Rail Europe and Destination Europe Resources (DER) were up 82% over the same period last year, compared with a 14% increase in railpasses covering three or more countries.

U.K. RAIL WAYS: In other transport news, Rail Europe and DER started offering extended eligibility of the BritRail Party Pass, which now provides a 50% discount for small groups of up to nine passengers traveling together. BritRail itself began offering the extended eligibility in January. Previously, the pass - which is good for travel in England, Scotland and Wales with a BritRail Consecutive Pass, BritRail Flexipass, BritRail England Pass or BritRail Days Out From London Pass - provided half-off savings only for a third or fourth member of a group. Commission on BritRail Passes from Rail Europe Group firms is 5%, whether booked online or by phone. Contact Rail Europe at http://agent.raileurope.com or (888) 382-7245, or DER at www.der.com or (800) 782-2424. BritRail pays 8% on the passes when booked at (866) BRITRAIL.

MOVERS, SHAKERS:
• Trafalgar Tours will move its headquarters west, from Long Island City, N.Y., to Anaheim, Calif. -- already home to its operations center -- on Aug. 18. The firm will keep a group operations office in New York, but will relocate East Coast reservations and support services to call centers in Anaheim and Toronto. For more information, call (800) 854-0103 or visit www.trafalgar.com.
• The 33-member European Travel Commission (ETC) elected Eugenio Magnani of the Italian Government Tourist Board in New York its new chairman. Magnani, Italy's travel commissioner for North America since 1998, replaces Rob Franklin, executive vice president for VisitBritain in the Americas, recently named ETC executive director in Brussels. The ETC, comprised of 33 national tourism boards, is responsible for promoting Europe as a whole in the U.S. market.

INN-SIDE STORY:
• The historic Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, the luxury chain's latest property, opened in the heart of the Hungarian capital, after a two-year, $110 million restoration. The art nouveau structure houses 179 guest rooms, including 14 suites. For more, visit www.fourseasons.com/in_season/special_edition_budapest_issue/index.html.
• Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts signed an agreement to manage its first hotel in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, in the Balkans. The $30 million, 140-unit Radisson SAS Palace Hotel will open in the lakeside city of Ohrid, in Macedonia's northeast, in March 2006. The property also will feature two restaurants, a business center, six meetings rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a health and fitness center, a spa and several retail outlets. See www.rezidorsas.com for more details.
• The Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare in Paris is offering agents a special summer booking incentive through Aug. 21. Retailers who confirm eight reservations through that date will receive two complimentary nights (subject to availability) at the hotel, once guests arrive and check in. In addition, the hotel pays agents 10% commission on most rates. For more information, visit www.travelagentdeals2.com/concorde/concord0609v2.html, call (800) 888-4747 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

WHAT'S ON: Denmark is home to several music festivals this summer, including the outdoor Roskilde Festival (www.roskilde-festival.dk/) of rock music, set to run July 1 to 4; the Copenhagen Jazz Festival (www.festival.jazz.dk) from July 2 to 11, with Herbie Hancock, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, and others; and the Tonder Festival (Aug. 25 to 29) of folk music in south Jutland (see www.tf.dk).

DEPARTURES:
• Portuguese airline Azores Express expands spring and summer service from Boston to Portugal beginning this month. The carrier offers direct flights to Sao Miguel, the main island in Portugal's Azores archipelago, on Tuesdays, Fridays and -- as of June 23 -- Wednesdays, while direct Saturday service to Sao Miguel from Providence, R.I., started June 12. Nonstop flights to Lisbon from Boston are available Sundays and Thursdays, as of today as well. In addition, the line launched direct Boston-Terceira service on Sundays June 13, with a return flight every Tuesday. New this year is one-stop summer service to the city of Porto from Boston, departing Wednesdays. In related news, Azores Express launched a new Web site [www.azores-express.com].
• Ferry service between Denmark and Sweden was upgraded across the Oresund sound separating the countries, despite the popularity of the nearly 10-mile Oresund Bridge, which opened back in 2000. The fully refurbished Rederiet ferry, with a restaurant onboard, makes the crossing between Denmark and Sweden in one hour, 20 minutes. See www.rederiet.se.

TOUR-RIFIC: Attention, film fanatics and ancient history buffs: Ya'lla Tours USA, based in Portland, Ore., is offering "Troy: The Legend, the Love, the Victory," a nine-night tour of western Turkey that explores the mythology of Troy departing Nov. 2. The air-inclusive tour -- priced from $2,795 per person, double -- will be lead by Mustafa Askin, a renowned Troy specialist and author of the well-known guide book "TROY." Travel agents earn 15%; call (800) 644-1595 or visit www.yallatours.com for details on the itinerary.

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