Travel Weekly's Ireland E-Letter: March 27, 2003

KEEP 'EM COMING: With recent anti-war protests in Europe conspiring with wartime traveler jitters to discourage transatlantic travel, officials at Tourism Ireland stressed that Ireland remains a welcoming destination for U.S. visitors. According to Jim McGuigan, executive vp-North America at Tourism Ireland, the Emerald Isle attracts nearly 1 million travelers from the U.S. each year, and the Irish would like the trend to continue. "The Irish people feel a strong affinity with Americans and always have the warmest regard for our visitors from the U.S.," he said. "Whether during an uncertain international climate, such as currently, or during more carefree times, the Emerald Isle is just the place to get away from it all and enjoy a splendid vacation. It is our hope that this year many Americans will do just that."

GREEN BACK: Agents selling the Emerald Isle might consider furnishing clients with the commissionable Join Ireland traveler discount card. The card -- which costs $39 per year, down from $59 last year -- gets clients discounts of up to 60% on more than 1,500 travel-related products, such as restaurants, shopping, attractions, lodging, golf, cruises, car hire and international phone calls. There are some 500 more opportunities to save than there were six months ago. Dublin-headquartered affinity club Join Ireland pays agents 15% commission on each card sold. The company's Web site at www.joinireland.com serves as an online guide to eating, shopping and activities in Ireland --and lists retailers that offer card holders discounts on Web buys even after they're back in the U.S. Travel agents can enroll as Join Ireland card resellers on the Web site or by e-mailing [email protected].

In other news, Join Ireland closed its Newport Beach, Calif., sales offices.

BON APPETIT: Guests at 145-room, 20-suite Dublin hotel The Merrion gain a new dining option with the debut of The Cellar Restaurant. Executive chef Ed Cooney plans a simple menu that will feature homemade pies, calf's liver and Dover sole, according to Peter MacCann, Merrion general manager. "The approach will appeal to anyone who values comfort, atmosphere, superb service, reasonable prices and -- above all -- good, simple Irish fare," said MacCann. The Cellar Restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For more information, call (011) 353-1603-0600 or visit www.merrionhotel.com.

CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE: In response to the war in Iraq, Aer Lingus said it will credit ticketed U.S. passengers who cancel their immediate travel plans 100% of paid airfare, to be redeemed for later travel by year's end. The carrier also said it's pressing ahead with plans to reinstate service between Baltimore/Washington and Shannon and Dublin on March 30. In other news, Aer Lingus said it achieved a profit of about $37 million in 2002, compared with a loss of $148 million in 2001, while passenger load factors increased to 79%, up from 72% the year before. Chairman Tom Mulcahy credited the airline's ongoing, post-Sept. 11 "survival plan" for the turnaround. "We will continue to change the way we do business and further reduce our costs in order to offer our customers low-fare air travel," he said.

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