by Lisa Grimaldi | June 01, 2004


Sparkling span:
The Millenium Bridge
offers great views of Dublin.

This European Union member might finally be getting a long-awaited national conference center. Plans for such a facility have been floated by politicians and developers for at least a decade, but they have always fallen through for one reason or another.
    Late last year, however, the government formally announced it was accepting requests for proposal from developers. According to the government’s specifications, the new center will be in Dublin and will have room to accommodate at least 2,000 delegates; at press time, a specific site had not been selected. Completion is set for late 2007.
    Another big headline for the Emerald Isle: As a result of a federal law banning smoking in any workplace, Ireland’s famed and beloved pubs became smoke-free on March 29, along with restaurants and clubs.

Tourism update
Ireland’s Tourism Policy Review Group, a government organization, has made several recommendations to lure visitors. Among the suggested measures:
    " Renegotiate Ireland’s bilateral aviation agreement with the United States to increase air service, particularly from the Midwest
    " Improve roads and signage in tourist spots such as Dublin and parts of western Ireland, such as Connemara and Kerry
    " Establish a mandatory hotel classification system
    " Form a national bed-and-breakfast organization.
    Meanwhile, for those who have not contacted the main tourism body in a while: The Irish Tourist Board merged with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in 2002. The combined organization is now called Tourism Ireland.

Hotel news
Dublin’s landmark hotel, the Shelbourne, is now part of Marriott International’s portfolio; it was formerly part of the Le Méridien chain. The historic property dates back to 1824; in 1922, the Irish Constitution was drafted and signed there. The property is undergoing an extensive restoration to its 190 guest rooms (to be increased to a total of 276), lobby and dining facilities, as well as adding central air conditioning to guest rooms, 11 meeting rooms and public spaces. Upon completion in 2007, the hotel will be rebranded the Shelbourne, a Renaissance Hotel.
    A funky new bar, Ice, has opened at the 259-room Four Seasons Dublin.
    Three Jurys Doyle Hotel Group properties in Dublin the 410-room Jurys Ballsbridge and Towers, the 204-room Westbury and the 188-room Berkeley Court have refurbished their guest rooms and meeting facilities.
    The Conrad Dublin has refurbished its 200 guest rooms and five meeting rooms.
    The five-star, 145-room Merrion, Dublin, housed in four Georgian townhouses, debuts its new penthouse suite this month. With a private terrace garden, the facility is available for functions.
    Fore: The Marriott Druids Glen in Newtownmountkennedy, about 20 miles south of Dublin, debuted its second golf course, the 7,000-yard, 18-hole Druids Heath, last fall.
    The outskirts of Dublin also will be home to the new 144-room Castleknock Hotel and Country Club. The property, part of the Tower Hotel Group, is slated for completion in late 2004 and will feature a $9.4 million, 18-hole golf course, plus meetings facilities and a spa. n