Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Nov. 13, 2003

SHAMROCK'S SHAPING UP: At last count, a record 8,200 agents enrolled in Tourism Ireland's Shamrock Club, the five-year-old destination specialist program that became an all-online effort a year ago. Before the program went live at www.shamrockclub.net/register in November 2002, membership stood at 1,000. To accommodate the burgeoning numbers of new graduates, Tourism Ireland next year plans to reinstate "super-fam trips," which were discontinued five years ago, said program manager John Daly. Under the revived super-fam scheme, up to 300 newly certified Shamrock Club specialists will take escorted tours of Ireland at a discount in 2004. That compares with 57 this year. For more information or to register, contact Daly at (212) 418-0835 or Breeda Burns at (212) 418-0842 or visit the Shamrock Club Web site.

MOVERS, SHAKERS: In related news, the Irish-born Daly will leave his Shamrock Club post at Tourism Ireland's New York offices Nov. 21, returning home -- with family of three in tow -- to work at company headquarters in Dublin. A permanent replacement for Daly, who's managed the Shamrock Club program since its inception in 1998, had not been named at press time.

EIRE-OBIC: Consider an active Ireland vacation for sporty or adventuresome clients. The Leenane-based Killary Group--which includes Killary Lodge, K2 The Killary Centre, Killary Tours and Killary Adventure Co.--pays agents commissions of 15% to 20% on rural accommodations and activity-centered holidays near the Killary "fjord," in western Co. Galway. Owners Jamie and Mary Young--who eschew coach tours in favor of FIT travelers and incentives, niche or corporate groups--want to grow ties to the trade. Today, some 90% of their bookings are direct.

GUESTS AT THE 20-ROOM, LAKESIDE KILLARY LODGE [a $49 to $92 per person, per night, B&B] or the 100-person, hostel-style K2 [from $18] can participate in walking, biking, horseback riding and kayaking, as well as the Killary Challenge. That's a Fear Factor-style day of rock-climbing, archery, high ropes, water skiiing, gorge walking and more. Call (011) 353 954-2276, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.killary.com.

UPPING THE ANTE: The four-star Knockranny House Hotel, in charming Westport, Co. Mayo, is looking to draw more U.S. bookings with improved amenities. Plans call for adding minibars to its 54 rooms and three suites by year-end and speeding construction of its new spa facility, to include nine treatment rooms, a gym, a pool and a cafe. Americans currently account for only 5% to 10% of guests at the hotel, which is popular with Irish clientele, according to general manager Adrian Noonan. Nightly rates range from about $132 to $168; agent commission is 8%. For more information, call (011) 353 982-8600, send a fax to (011) 353 982-8611 or an e-mail to [email protected], or visit www.khh.ie.

PADDY'S PARTY: Irish tourism minister John O'Donoghue named Mary Davis--CEO of the Special Olympics summer games in Ireland this year-- chairperson of the 2004 St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, or Feilte Dhuibh Linne Teoranta. The festival--one of Ireland's top draws, attracting more than 1.2 million people--will take place March 12 to 19; events include fireworks, musical performances, street fairs, dance and, of course, the parade itself through Dublin. Tour operators are already getting in on the act. For example, Celtic Tours Int'l is peddling a 7-night St. Patrick's Week program priced from $868 per person, sharing, land-only. The program, which runs March 13 to 20, includes first-class hotels in Limerick, Athlone, Dublin and Killarney; Irish breakfast daily; five dinners; coach transport and touring; a driver/guide; visits to Kilmainham Jail, Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher and the St. Paddy's Parade. Celtic pays agents 10% on the tour; contact Celtic Tours at (800) 833-4373 or visit www.celtictours.com.

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