Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: May 13, 2004

SPA STAYS: To promote its new on-site spa, Samas, the venerable, 5-star Park Hotel Kenmare, in County Kerry, is offering 2- and 3-night Celtic Lifestyle Program stays through Sept. 30. The two- and three-night stays offer, respectively, two or three nights' superior accommodations with breakfast; a two- or three-day Lifestyle Program; one or two hours of spa treatment time; one or two dinners; and participation in daily activities. Daily activities include guided hikes on Kerry Way; a "flora, fauna and heritage walk" in Kenmare; 18 holes of golf on the Kenmare Course; a one-hour golf lesson; freshwater or game fishing; a two-hour horse trek; and a pleasure boat trip on Kenmare Bay. Also, free "morning serenity" activities at Samas [pronounced "SAH-vass"] include yoga, tai chi, meditation and walks. Rates--priced in euros--at press time were about $758, per person, for two days' superior accommodation, and $1,212 for three days; deluxe and suite rates also are available. Travel agent commission is 8%. Call (011) 353-644-1200 or visit www.parkkenmare.com.

ALL IN THE FAM-ILY: Brian Moore Int'l Tours (BMIT) announced its fall fam trips' lineup, with two itineraries. The $499 Undiscovered Ireland includes 5 nights' first-class hotel accommodations in Belfast, Derry, Co. Mayo and Cabra Castle; air from Boston or New York; 5 dinners; breakfast daily; services of a tour director and BMIT representative; a Selling Ireland Seminar and sightseeing. And the $399 Everlasting Ireland offers 3 nights' hotel in Shannonside, with breakfast daily; roundtrip air from Boston or New York; 3 dinners, including a medieval banquet; services of a tour director and BMIT rep; the sales seminar; and sightseeing. A $100 deposit is required to secure space; for more information visit //www.bmit.com and click the travel agents link, or call (800) 982-2299.

NEW FROM SCEPTRE: Sceptre Tours--which offers net rates to retailers--is "putting" out the word that it has its own Golf Dept. that can help agents craft golfing holidays in Ireland. Sceptre boasts live inventory from golf courses and guaranteed tee times, and it offers instant confirmations. For golf queries, quotes or bookings, call (800) 221-0924 to reach Gerry at extension 316 or Will at extension 329. Sceptre is also pushing a six-night Romance and Luxury package to 5-star hotels in Galway, Dublin and Killarney. Priced from $1,078 to $1,572, depending on departure date, the tour includes roundtrip air; luxury accommodation, including the Merrion Hotel in Dublin; one-week car rental; a Dublinia tour; and breakfast daily. For more on Sceptre, visit www.sceptretours.com .

GOOD TO GO: Brendan Worldwide Vacations said it's guaranteeing more than 250 Ireland departures through October. The firm said it offers escorted tours to fit "every budget, itinerary and pace," from the 4-night Irish Jaunt, priced from under $92 per day, to the 13-night The Scots and The Irish tour, priced from $149 per day. Brendan tours include accommodation in superior-first-class or first-class hotels; most meals; sightseeing; guide services; and touring via deluxe motorcoach. Other tours include the 7-night, quickie Glimpse of Ireland, from $959 per person; the regional-focused 6-night Touch of Ireland South [priced from $1,008 per person] and 8-night Touch of Ireland North ($1,339); the 12-night Sights & Sounds of Ireland tour, from $1,867; and the in-depth 11-night Grand Tour of Ireland, priced from $1,706 per person. For more, go to www.brendanvacations.com or call (800) 421-8446.

WAY UP NORTH: Overnight visits to Belfast rose by 25%, to 713,000, in 2003, according to new figures from the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB). And Northern Ireland's capital welcomed 5.3 million visitors--up from 3.6 million in 2002--who spent some $400 million. Nelson McCausland, chairman of Belfast City Council's tourism and promotion sub-committee, said "the figures announced today are excellent news for encouraging new developments in the tourism infrastructure [and] with the growth of new hotels, attractions and places to eat in Belfast, there is an increasingly warm welcome for visitors." BVCB chief executive Gerry Lennon added that 2004 looks "to be a bumper year," as well.

WHAT'S MORE: Nine cruise ships will dock in Belfast in July and August, one fewer than the 10 that called last summer, said the BVCB. In other news:
• Belfast's historic Cathedral Quarter will be spruced up with the new $9 million "1 Potthouse Lane" development, which will include a nightclub, bar and restaurant. The 20,000-square-foot project is at the junction of Hill and Waring streets.
• The fast-growing Malmaison hotel chain bought the McCausland Hotel in Belfast in a deal valued at more than $4.4 million; the firm will take over the hotel by mid-year.
• The La Mon hotel in Belfast won four-star status from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The property, which is under new ownership, has been modernized with a new swimming pool and leisure complex and 70 additional bedrooms.
• Two new exhibit buildings--a Presbyterian meeting house from Omagh and a house and forge from Ballinderr--opened at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. For more, visit www.gotobelfast.com.

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