Travel Weekly's Ireland E-Letter: April 3, 2003

DAY AND NIGHT: Sceptre Ireland's Sights & Sounds escorted tour to the Emerald Isle -- priced from $499 per person, double -- pairs daytime sightseeing with nighttime pub visits. Sights & Sounds includes roundtrip air, accommodations -- with two nights in Galway and two nights in Dublin -- breakfast daily, two dinners, most sightseeing and all tips, taxes and service charges. The tour departs every other day from Nov. 1 to 27. Pricing is valid from Baltimore, Boston and New York; add $90 and $200 for Chicago and Los Angeles departures, respectively. Additional gateways nationwide are available. Sceptre Ireland pays 10% commission to agents. For more information, visit www.sceptreireland.com or call (800) 221-0924.

ONLINE ADVANTAGE: Don't forget to check out Tourism Ireland's Shamrock Club destination specialist Web site at www.shamrockclub.net/register. Once you've joined, you can log onto the recently upgraded site for access to online education and certification modules and other features. For more, contact Tourism Ireland's John Daly at (212) 418-0835, or visit the site.

HOTEL UPDATE: The Irish Tourist Board (Bord Failte) in Dublin is revamping the country's accommodations standards, according to Ireland's Dept. of Arts, Sport and Tourism. As of May 1, the minimum number of rooms necessary for hotel status in cities will be reduced from 20 to 15, there will be increases in minimum size requirements for guestrooms, and bathrooms must now be en suite. While hotels will still be required to make meals and refreshments available at reasonable hours, they won't have to maintain full restaurant service at all times. "These new regulations are more reflective of modern best practice and changes in consumer tastes and practices," said John O'Donoghue, minister for arts, sport and tourism.

WAR MOVES: In other news, Ireland's Dept. of Arts, Sport and Tourism announced a national tourism action plan to respond to war in Iraq. Moves include market intelligence gathering in 19 countries with Tourism Ireland offices; improved contact with Irish suppliers, regional tourism directors and the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation; and adjustments to overseas marketing campaigns throughout 2003. Minister O'Donoghue said Ireland's experience with hoof-and-mouth disease and the Sept. 11 attacks proved that the Irish tourism industry was resilient. Ireland's overall growth in overseas visitor numbers last year was 1.2%, compared to 2001, while the decline from the North American market was significantly less than anticipated, at 7%. "Given the difficulties of the last couple of years, Irish tourism has shown itself to be tough and durable," said O'Donoghue. "I have every confidence that [the industry] will rise to meet and overcome the challenges of the day."

LAST-MINUTE BELFAST: The Stormont Hotel, 10 minutes outside Belfast, is offering last-minute deals this weekend and next. Two nights' bed and breakfast costs about $36 per person, double, per night; meanwhile, one night's bed and breakfast runs $48 per person. The single room supplement is $34; prices include complimentary use of the nearby David Lloyd Health Club. There is no commission on the weekend specials; the Stormont normally pays 10%. This offer is available April 4 to 6, and April 11 to 13. To book, ask for the "Last Minute Offer" at (011) 44-289 065-1066 or send an e-mail to [email protected]. For more information on the Stormont, visit www.hastingshotels.com.

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