NEW IRISH DIGS: Select Hotels of Ireland, a
Limerick-based group of 13 luxury Irish properties, is setting its
sights on the U.S. market for the first time in its three-year
history. To help acquaint U.S. agents with its Ireland-wide
offerings, Select--which to date has focused on the domestic Irish
market--teamed with operator SMI Tours Ireland, of Dedham, Mass.,
which will feature the group's hotel portfolio in its 2004
brochure. Select Hotels director Patricia Coughlan said the group
had intended to market to Americans from the beginning, but
postponed active promotion after the post-9/11 travel downturn.
Now, the time is ripe, particularly since U.S. guests already
account for as much as 40% of its clientele at some of its
better-known properties, including the Renvyle House Hotel in
Connemara, Co. Galway. "The feedback from U.S. agents has been an
eye-opener," said Coughlan. "Many already know some properties very
well, and can therefore trust in our standards."
MEANWHILE, SELECT HOTELS--with
four-star-quality "European-style" properties in Belfast, Donegal,
Dublin, Galway, Connemara, Killarney, Kilkenny, Laois, Westport,
Bettystown Beach, Waterford and Wexford--"is trying to provide
agents a one-stop shop" for quality Ireland-wide vacations, she
added. The group pays retailers negotiated commissions, starting at
a base rate of 10%. For more information or to book, visit www.selecthotelsireland.com, e-mail [email protected] or call (011) 353-6
144-0440; or, contact SMI Tours Ireland [formerly Siobhan Moore's
Ireland] at (800) 499-1899 or at www.smireland.com.
BELFAST ONLINE...AGAIN: The Belfast Visitor and
Convention Bureau in the Northern Ireland capital upgraded its
online presence Wednesday with a revamped Web site at www.gotobelfast.com. According to the BVCB, the site
is now "more visual, informative and interactive, and easier to
navigate." A new content-management system also gives the
organization the ability to update or change online content within
seconds. That will keep "site visitors informed and always up to
date," said a spokesperson.
MORE GREENS ON SCENE: Luxury property Dromoland
Castle, in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, is spending a lot of
green to better its greens. The 100-room, 375-acre palatial resort
is investing some $5.75 million in a new golf course that staff
claim will be "like no other" in Ireland. Set to open in April, the
championship course--designed by Ron Kirby and J.B. Carr--runs for
more than 6,850 yards, through the woodlands and around the lakes
of the 16th century property. Greens fees will be about $115 for
day visitors, $98 for hotel guests and $70 for golf-club members'
guests. Advanced reservations are being taken at (800) 346-7007 and
by email at [email protected]. For more information, visit www.dromoland.ie.
TAXING, TRAINING: Irish tourism minister John
O'Donoghue Monday promised a group of Kerry hoteliers that he'd
press the government for a freeze on VAT rates in the newest
budget, according to Dublin newspaper the Irish Independent.
Hoteliers have asked for a drop in VAT to 10%, down from the
current 13.5%, claiming Ireland's rate on accommodations is twice
that of Spain and the fourth-highest in the European Union.
IN OTHER GOVERNMENT NEWS, meanwhile, Irish
tourism body Failte Ireland opened a $1.6 million training center
in Cork. The center will provide courses in cookery, food and
beverage and bar operations to as many as 250 locals in the greater
Cork/Kerry region each year, boosting training capacity by 20%.
Failte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn said the new center is integral to
tourism development in Ireland's southwest, home to 18% of all
Irish hospitality workers. "So much of the Irish tourism experience
is inextricably linked with the attitude and aptitude of the people
working within it," Quinn said. For more information, visit www.failteireland.ie.