Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Feb. 12, 2004

IRISH AIRS: Irish regional airline SkyNet snagged DOT approval Monday to offer scheduled service between Shannon and Newark -- a route not currently served by any carrier, although Continental is scheduled to re-launch daily service May 1. SkyNet, which also got the thumbs-up to offer charter flights between Ireland and the U.S., told the DOT it plans to launch the Shannon-Newark service on or about May 15, using 767 aircraft. SkyNet -- which debuted in June 2002 -- flies between Shannon, Dublin, Amsterdam and Moscow. For more, visit www.skynet.aero, which features travel-agent log-in functionality.

STEP ON IT: Auto Europe's 2004 car rental rates bottom out in Ireland, with prices as low as $14.99 per day, and the firm is offering early booking incentives for reservations made by March 31 for travel to Dec. 31. Clients get free upgrades, from compact to intermediate, as well as 25% off higher-category rentals and 10% off standard rentals. Agents, meanwhile, earn cash bonuses or Auto Europe "travel dollars," redeemable for any service that the firm provides, such as air fare, hotel or car upgrades. Retailers net an additional $5 in cash or $10 in travel dollars for each booking with a minimum of five car rental reservations; certain conditions and restrictions apply. Auto Europe has rental offices in Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Galway, Kerry, Killarney, Knock, Rosslare, Shannon, Sligo and Wexford. Contact Auto Europe at (800) 223-5555 or www.autoeurope.com.

NO EXTRA EUROS: Celtic Tours said it will eschew currency surcharges -- despite the hammering the euro's been giving the dollar -- and guarantee its 2004 brochure land prices for both individuals and groups on all Ireland and Europe itineraries booked and under deposit by March 31 for travel through December. But time may be of the essence for agents: Director of sales and marketing Marc Kavanagh said Celtic may "re-evaluate" the policy come April. For more, call (800) 833-4373, send an e-mail to [email protected] or visit www.celtictours.com.

LUXE-URIOUS: The Academy Hotel in Dublin has joined Los Angeles-based Luxe Worldwide Hotels. Rates at the 100-room Academy Hotel, located at Findlater Place, include Irish breakfast, and guest rooms are outfitted with high-tech amenities such as satellite TV, voicemail and Internet access. The hotel pays travel agents 10% on all bookings; rates through Oct. 31 start at about $159 per room, per night (double occupancy), mid-week. "We welcome the Academy, which offers a country home atmosphere in the midst of Dublin," said Ben Deane, Luxe Worldwide Hotels' vice president of Business Development, Ireland, in a statement. Luxe represents 15 affiliated hotel properties across Ireland. Check out the property at www.academy-hotel.ie or visit www.luxehotels.com.

TODAY, INN HISTORY: In other Irish hotel news, the five-star Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin -- formerly a Le Meridien property -- is now part of the Marriott International portfolio. After extensive renovations to be completed in 2007, the historic 190-room hotel on St. Stephen's Green -- the birthplace of the Irish Constitution -- will be rebranded as "The Shelbourne, a Renaissance Hotel." The restoration -- to include the addition of air conditioning and 86 more rooms -- will cover guest quarters, the lobby and dining facilities. (The hotel will have two restaurants and three lounges.) Other amenities will include a gift shop, health club with indoor swimming pool, a business center and off-site valet parking. In Ireland, Marriott also operates the 148-room Druids Glen Marriott Hotel & Country Club some 25 miles south of Dublin. For more, visit www.marriott.com.

LEGENDARY: Sceptre Ireland's Folklore and History package -- now priced from $1,079 per person, net -- includes roundtrip air fare, eight nights' accommodations, car rental or chauffeur, a "Zozimus" guided walking tour of Dublin, and full breakfast daily. Two nights each are spent at the Breaffy House, Co. Mayo; the Sand House Hotel, Co. Donegal; the Everglades Hotel, Co. Derry; and the Hibernian Hotel, Co. Dublin. For more, visit www.sceptreagent.com.

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