Cead Mile Failte, "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes," is the age-old slogan of Irish hospitality and tourism. Your clients will feel this warm welcome wherever they go in the southwest region of Ireland, known as the Kingdom of Kerry. Whether stopping to enjoy a pint of Guinness or a pot of tea, asking directions to a ring fort or an artist's studio, or simply sharing a bench at a scenic overlook, they'll feel right at home chatting up the locals.
Lodging: Affordable, commissionable lodging is best found at small independent hotels. Be aware that single supplements are common in Ireland.
The Lake Hotel (011-353-64-31035, www.lakehotel.com), run by the same family for three generations, is on the shores of the Killarney Lakes and hosts the ruins of a 12th-century castle. It recently added a new wing and has 132 comfortable rooms. High season rates (July and August) start at about $215 midweek and $250 on weekends, double occupancy with breakfast. Call Sarah Dougherty, sales and marketing, for reservations. Niall Huggard, general manager, is also happy to help agents. Commission is 10 percent; book direct, as the hotel is not in the GDS. It's closed December and half of January.
For clients who want to be in the heart of Killarney so they can walk to restaurants, pubs and shops, Foley's Townhouse (011-353-64-31217, www.foleystownhouse.com) is right on High Street. This charming, family-run hotel was once an 18th-century coaching inn and has 29 rooms. High season rates start at $155, double occupancy, with breakfast; commission is 10 percent. Agents can call owner Carol Hartnett.
If the main drag is too busy for your clients, the Brook Lodge Hotel (011-353-64-31800, www.brooklodgekillarney.com) is one block away from the action with plenty of parking. The family-operated hotel has 24 large rooms, some with multiple beds. High season rates start at $233, double occupancy, with breakfast. Owner Joan Counihan is available to agents. The property is open April through October.
Tralee is a gateway to the Dingle Peninsula; Fels Point Hotel (011-353-66-711-9986, www.felspointhotel.ie) is the newest hotel here. It features 163 large contemporary rooms. There are connecting and disabled rooms. High season rates start at $248, double occupancy, with breakfast, $215, room only. The agent liaison is Teresa Griffin, reservations manager ([email protected]).
Tour Operator: Ireland specialist Sceptre Tours (800-221-0924, www.sceptretours.com) packages air, car rental and lodging. This agent-only service offers live lodging inventory, plus commissionable air, transportation, tours, golf and activities. Agents earn 10 percent commission on land (5 percent on air), while Emerald Partners earn 12 percent commissions (5 percent on air), and they can add a mark-up to system bookings.
Dining: Food is quite expensive in Ireland. The most affordable options are typically local pubs and small cafés. Thankfully, most lodging offers a hearty Irish breakfast to start the day, and there are tea shops everywhere for scones with jam and a pot of tea in the afternoon. The hotels recommended have affordable restaurants on premises.
For additional options in Killarney, pub food is a low-cost choice at The Laurels, (011-353-64-31149) on Main Street. Burgers and Irish lamb stew are $23.
A charming stone cottage with a red door on a Killarney laneway hosts Stonechat Café and Restaurant (011-353-64-34295). Chef/owner Roger O'Donoghue serves up vegetarian entrees to traditional bacon and cabbage, finished with Sticky Toffee Pudding. Entrees start at $23.
Traditional boxty is the highlight at Bricin Restaurant (011-353-64-34902), on the second floor above a High Street gift shop. Boxty is a potato pancake filled with various fillings; here, they are $45 on a set menu with soup, salad, dessert and coffee.
For a splurge, Gaby's Seafood Restaurant (011-353-64-32519) is the destination. Chef/owner Gert Maes has won loads of international culinary awards and competitions. There is a cozy, rustic atmosphere and extensive wine cellar to accompany the seafood presentations. Entrees start at $28. Travel Resources:
In Dingle Town, recommend the Goat Street Café (011-353-66-915-2770) for gourmet vegetarian food, and the pub food at John Benny Moriarty's Pub (011-353-66-915-1215) and The Marina Inn (011-353-66-915-1660).
Traditional Music/Nightlife: In Killarney, traditional Irish music is featured nearly every night at Killarney Grand Hotel, O'Connor's, Hannigan's and Dunloe Lodge. The Danny Mann has a more touristy Irish show. In Dingle Town, music can be heard nightly in numerous pubs, such as The Marina Inn, John Benny Moriarty's Pub, Dick Mac's Pub and O'Flaherty's Pub. About three times a week, there are also concerts in St. James Church at 7:30 p.m.
Getting There: Visitors can fly direct to Ireland from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, New York/JFK, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington/Dulles. Airlines flying direct routes include: Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com); American Airlines (www.aa.com); Continental Airlines (www.continental.com); Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com); fly globespan (www.flyglobespan.com); and US Airways (www.usairways.com). (Note: Aer Lingus incentives and commissions are awarded on a sliding scale based on volume. Agents who do not book through the GDS can register on the Aer Lingus portal to manage their bookings live.)
The easiest way to get to County Kerry is to fly to Shannon Airport (www.shannonairport.com) and make the drive south; it's 21/2 hours from Shannon to Killarney. Customers flying to Dublin Airport (www.dublin-airport.com) can take Aer Arann (www.aerarann.com) to Kerry Airport (www.kerryairport.com), but be aware of luggage restrictions (33 pounds per passenger), as overweight fees are high.
Getting Around: Clients exploring Kerry require a rental car; ensure your customers are comfortable driving on the left side of the road. Specify an automatic car, which is an additional charge. Be sure to check insurance details. Recommend full insurance coverage as the roads are narrow, twisty and typically wet, so accidents are common. Most car-rental agencies offer insurance that covers everything but punctured tires and lost keys. Be forewarned that the Hertz standard insurance has a very high deductible for any scratches or repairs, plus other fees. Note that some car rental companies won't rent to people under 21 or over 70. Car Rental Council of Ireland: www.carrentalcouncil.ie is a good source.
Things to Know: Ireland is five hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time. The Republic of Ireland's currency is the euro (1 euro = $1.55 at press time). VAT is charged on most purchased goods, but visitors can get a tax refund at the airport with documentation from the place of purchase. Visitors need a voltage converter and plug adapter for electrical appliances/equipment. Temperatures are generally in the 60s in the summer; expect showers and drizzle. A valid passport is required.