Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: June 3, 2004

FLY-AND-DRIVE: Brian Moore Int'l Tours is paying 10% on both land and air portions of four Web Special packages. For example, a $299 air-and-auto week in Ireland-- including roundtrip airfare from Boston or New York, and one week's car rental--is available for travel Nov. 11 to March 25. Optional package add-ons include six nights' bed-and-breakfast accommodations at $43 per night; use of automatic-transmission cars for an extra $9 per day; and airfare from other U.S. cities, such as Baltimore for an additional $14, Chicago for $48 more and Los Angeles for an extra $158.

BMIT is also offering the Ireland's Friendly B&Bs deal from $549, with airfare, six nights' accommodation, rental car and daily breakfast; the four-night Ireland's Pub Tour, starting at $599; and Ireland's Select Hotels, priced from $649 with air, six nights' hotel [two nights each in Dublin, Galway and Killarney], a rental car and breakfast daily. Visit www.bmit.com or call (800) 982-2299.

DEAR BEER: Ireland may have cleared the air in its pubs and restaurants with a new smoking ban, but now it may clear the room altogether, thanks to planned nationwide price increases--unrelated to the smoking ban--from both alcohol distributors and bar owners. For example, Ireland-based brewer and distiller Diageo--owner of the Guinness beer franchise--is said to be mulling a 6% hike on draft beer, and "publicans" reportedly plan to tack on a few more euro-cents per pint. Reacting to the news, Irish tourism minister, John O'Donoghue noted that an increasingly expensive Ireland is already saddled with a competitiveness issue regarding the cost of drinking and eating out, so further price jumps could stifle a fragile tourism recovery. "I would call upon both brewers and the licensed trade to seriously consider the potential negative impacts of proceeding with drink price increases," said O'Donoghue. "This ... can only go so far before it begins to have possibly long-term negative consequences."

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: Despite a 47% jump in bookings and a 28% increase in revenue last year, Irish low-fare carrier Ryanair--modeled on U.S.-based Southwest--saw its earnings drop for the first time since 1997, with post-tax profits for the fiscal year that ended March 31 dropping by just over 5%, to $276 million, from $292 million a year earlier. For more, see www.ryanair.com.

FOLK-LURE?: Sceptre Tours hopes to tempt clients with a Folklore and History package to Ireland's north, south, east and west. The deal includes roundtrip air; breakfast daily; a weekly car rental; a Dublin walking tour; and two nights' accommodation each at Breaffy House, County Mayo; Sandhouse Hotel, County Donegal; Everglades Hotel, County Derry; and the Hibernian, Dublin. Net pricing starts at $1,402 per person for travel in June; $1,503 in July and August; $1,341 for September; $1,194 for October; and $973 in November and December. For more information, call (800) 221-0924 or visit www.sceptretours.com.

LIMERICK-BASED HOTEL GROUP Select Hotels of Ireland--a chain of 15 three- and four-star hotels in Ireland--called on Tourism Ireland to provide marketing euros to aid Select Hotels' privately funded overseas tourism-promotion efforts. Founder and director Patricia Coughlan said Select Hotels spends some $1.8 million per year marketing Ireland, but it receives no economic assistance from Tourism Ireland. She claimed a mere $122,000 in government support could increase group business by 200%. "As a national and international marketing group we promote Ireland as a destination," said Coughlan. "This should be recognized by Tourism Ireland via some economic support."

FOR ITS PART, TOURISM IRELAND in New York said that although it is not responsible for enterprise development or grants--which is the purview of tourism board Failte Ireland--it does work closely with Irish hoteliers such as Select Hotels on overseas marketing. In fact, Tourism Ireland representatives in Ireland soon will meet with Select Hotels "to see if they are maximizing the full range of opportunities available overseas," said a spokesperson. For more on Select Hotels of Ireland, visit www.selecthotelsireland.com.

CHEERS: Brendan Worldwide Vacations is paying agents 15% commission--on land portions of individual bookings only [no groups]--for the July 19 departure of its 10-night Deluxe Ireland tour, when booked by June 15. Brendan also awards two free Waterford Crystal glasses per person booked. The tour--priced from $3,536, land only--includes twin-bed accommodations in deluxe hotels; daily Irish breakfast, coffee on two mornings, one lunch and nine three-course dinners; motorcoach sightseeing to Dublin, the Rock of Cashel, Cobh, Blarney, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher and the Belleek China Factory; a professional photograph of tour group; taxes, service fees and tips; and a Brendan Gold flight bag and portfolio of travel documents.

BRENDAN IS ALSO offering a 13-night, pan-Celtic deal, its The Scots and The Irish package, priced from $2,091. Rates include first-class accommodation; tickets to Scotland's Military Tattoo; breakfast daily; eight dinners; sightseeing; and ferry travel between Stranraer, Scotland, and Bangor, Northern Ireland. For reservations call (800) 421-8446 or (818) 428-6000. For more, visit www.brendanvacations.com.

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