Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Nov. 6, 2003

WINTER ESCAPES: Five-star Dublin property The Merrion is offering getaway deals for fall and early winter. The Weekend Winter Warmer Package is available until Jan. 31 for a minimum of two nights [starting Fridays and Saturdays). It's priced at about $149 per night, double occupancy, with no additional tax or service. The deal includes Garden Wing double-room accommodations, full Irish breakfast and a welcome bottle of champagne. Art-minded clients might take to the one-night Love Letters Package, which includes double or twin Garden Wing accommodations, full Irish breakfast and two tickets to the "Love Letters: Dutch Genre Painting in the Age of Vermeer" exhibit at the National Gallery of Ireland. Love Letters is available through Dec. 31, at about $131 per person, with no additional tax or service. Commission on both packages is 10%. To book, phone (011) 353-1 603-0600, fax (011) 353-1 603-0700, email [email protected] or visit www.merrionhotel.com.

NEW SPA: Speaking of escapes, the award-winning, new Delphi Mountain Resort and Spa offers both spa and adventure vacations in the mountainous west of Co. Galway. Opened in 2001, the 22-room, $5.75 million resort--set on 300 acres--won't begin official U.S. marketing for another two years, says general manager Michael Driscoll. But agents can get a jump on competitors by recommending the spa to clients today. The resort--with a planned expansion to expand to 60 guestrooms--offers spa treatments, yoga and tai chi classes, outdoor activities, fine dining and more. Delphi pays agents negotiated commissions on sample rates ranging from about $114 per person, double, for one night with breakfast and spa use, to $1,668 per person for seven nights, seven lunches, six dinners and nine spa treatments. For more rates and information or to book, phone (011) 353-954-2987, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.dephiescape.com.

ALL-AGENT, ALL THE TIME: Sceptre Ireland has gone all-agent, introducing net-rate pricing and halting direct sales in favor of working exclusively through retailers--in particular, its 218 Emerald Club preferred retailer partners. The Lynbrook, N.Y., operator also recently joined the U.S. Tour Operators Assn. As part of the shift, Sceptre tweaked its Web site [www.sceptreireland.com], limiting log-in capability to Emerald Club partners and other travel agents; it also added retailer-locator functionality for consumers and posted a letter that explains why it now sells only through agents. The firm also said it will refer any consumer inquiries to the nearest Emerald Club partner retailer. Under Sceptre's new net-pricing scheme, agents can mark up Sceptre Ireland product as they see fit, according to owner Bert Accomando.

LOOKING FOR GEMS: In related news, Sceptre Ireland is running a series of nationwide recruitment trade shows to promote the Emerald Club from Nov. 11 through Dec. 5. Seminars will be held in Dearborn, Mich., Nov. 11; Minneapolis, Nov. 12; Chicago, Nov. 13; Denver, Nov. 14; San Diego, Nov. 18; West Hollywood, Calif., Nov. 19; San Francisco, Nov. 20; and Bellevue, Wash., Nov. 21. East Coast seminars begin Dec. 1 in Newton, Mass., followed by Melville, N.Y., Dec. 3; Philadelphia, Dec. 4; and Baltimore, Dec. 5. To register or for more information, call (800) 221-0924, ext. 323.

A DERRY GOOD YEAR: The unique walled city of Londonderry in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland--once a hotbed of sectarian tensions--is seeing strong growth in visitor numbers. Arrivals from North America were up 7% this year through August, and the prognosis for the remainder of the year looks good, according to the Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau. International visitor numbers are up 26%.For more on Londonderry, which boasts Ireland's only completely walled historic center, visit www.visitderry.com.

MORE TO THE STORY: See the Nov. 10 print edition of Travel Weekly for full feature-length articles on both Londonderry [with a "Room Key" review of the contemporary, city-center Tower Hotel Derry] and the new Emerald Triangle hotel partnership formed by three family-owned properties in the Republic, first reported in the Oct. 30 edition of the Ireland E-letter.

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