Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Jan. 29, 2004

WINNING SITE: Clients can win big and cut the cost of their Ireland vacations with prizes from tourism board Visit Dublin's regular competitions at www.visitdublin.com/competitions. Contests include a photography competition, which nets the winner both 1,000 euros (about $1,250 at press time) and the cover of the official 2005 Dublin calendar; a two-night stay for two at Clontarf Castle, Co. Dublin, with one week's car rental from Sixt Irish Car Rentals; a dinner for two at the Abbot Restaurant in Howth, Co. Dublin; and two admission tickets to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin's city center.

FIT FOR ROYALTY: Sceptre Ireland offers your clients the chance to sleep like a king or queen with its six-night Emerald Castle Package, which features a final night in an historic Irish castle. Priced from $589, net, the tour includes roundtrip air to Ireland; weekly car rental or chauffeur; Irish coffee reception; breakfast daily; a first night pre-booked at a Great Southern Hotel in Shannon or Dublin; four nights in open-voucher "Town & Country" bed and breakfasts; and one night in Waterford Castle, Dromoland Castle, Adare Manor or Ashford Castle. To book, visit www.sceptreagent.com or call (800) 221-0924.

WHAT'S MORE: In other news, Sceptre's move last fall to net pricing and agent-only distribution earned it kudos from the Long Island, N.Y., chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), which recently presented the Lynbrook, N.Y., firm with an award for its support of retailers. Richard Copland, president and CEO of ASTA, said "Sceptre Ireland's recent announcement to deal only through agents is to be applauded." Chris Accomando, vp of Sceptre, accepted an award from Richard Cieciuch, president of Long Island ASTA, at a recent ceremony.

AER NEWS: Aer Lingus will resume direct scheduled flights between Dublin and Bristol, England, March 28, with roundtrip fares available at www.aerlingus.com for as low as 38 euros, or about $47.50. The Irish carrier suspended the route in January 2001, code-sharing since then on two daily British Airways flights instead. The afternoon Bristol service is the 28th route Aer Lingus introduced or reinstated in the last two years.

BETTER BUYS IN BELFAST?: Belfast tourism officials said they're targeting shopaholics and short-break vacationers in 2004, betting on market research that's found Northern Ireland's capital is a bargain-hunter's paradise-- compared with other Irish cities. A price comparison study in The Irish Times last month found that "Belfast [is] an excellent city to shop in," said Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau CEO Gerry Lennon. "Belfast has a great range of shops in a compact city centre, and it offers great value, too." For example, the BVCB said the study found that DVDs, priced at about $62 in Dublin, Cork and Galway shops, averaged $52 in Belfast. Meanwhile, a pair of Nike Air Max sneakers, $200 in Dublin, cost $160 in Belfast; a 3.4-ounce bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume-- $95 in Dublin--was $80 in Belfast; and a 24-ounce bottle of Baileys Irish Cream, $25 in Cork, was $20 in Belfast. For more on Belfast, visit www.gotobelfast.com.

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