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Bucking the trend: new travel website starts up

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

A few weeks ago came news of the demise of GoIreland, the once-celebrated online holiday booking service. Now comes news of the surprise arrival in the U.S. of Wannabeinireland.com, the new “U.S. to Ireland business and vacation travel booking engine.”

Owned by Irish Continental Group, the site offers a comprehensive package of options for getting from the U.S. to Ireland, for the business traveler through to the budget vacationer or the honeymooners looking for a few romantic nights in a castle. Wannabe boasts more than 5,000 listed lodgings, according to the company’s U.S. marketing director, Niall Swan, and has partnered with four airlines: Aer Lingus, Continental, United and American Airlines.

“We’re also enabling a lot of the smaller businesses, the B&Bs and the guest houses around Ireland that wouldn’t have much penetration into the U.S. market, we’re offering them another way into that market,” Swan said.

Swan added that Wannabe beats other online holiday giants hands down. Whereas Travelocity and Expedia use only larger urban hotel accommodations, Wannabe has the breadth and depth to find more specific locations according to the customer’s specifications. So far, said Swan, business has been holding up well. Wannabe already provides a similar service from the UK.

Back taxes recovered

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Revenue Commissioner Dermot Quigley has been celebrating the recovery of more than _176 million in unpaid taxes from bogus non-resident account holders.

The government is “very pleased with the project,” Quigley said, but warned that those holding out would face no mercy.

“Nobody involved should be in any doubt about the long program of investigations now facing Revenue, given the scale of the problem. The investigations will clearly extend over a number of years ahead. We are determined to see this project through as efficiently and as effectively as possible.”

Empey goes to China

Sir Reg Empey, Northern Ireland minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment, has left for a trade trip to China.

Empey hopes to attract new business opportunities arising from the 2008 Olympic games. Empey will meet up with 38 directors and senior managers from Northern Ireland firms. Senior Chinese officials will meet the group and discuss areas where business can be done.

Speaking in Belfast before his departure, Empey said many Northern firms had already developed a strong market presence in China’s competitive marketplace.

A number of firms taking part in the mission, such as Randox Laboratories and Andor Technology, have established business relationships in Beijing. West Belfast firm Delta Packaging has a joint venture printing operation, Huabei Delta, at Qian’an.

Empey believes these companies will be able to help newcomers from Northern Ireland to develop their approach to the Chinese market, a population of some 1.3 billion people.

Stuck for words?

Spin Solutions and Worldport are the new managed hosting supplier for Speechwriters.com, a web site described by its journalist owner, Niamh Crowe, as a “hugely successful online business.”

For $25 and a few clicks, Speechwriters.com and its affiliate, Eulogywriters.com, can provide you with choice words crafted for any public or social occasion that demands a speech from more than 350 sets of generic speeches on line

“Our business has been very successful and the majority of e-commerce over the site is now fully automated,” said Crowe’s husband, Fred.

“We have transactions happening at all times of the day and night and we cannot afford to be offline for any period,” hence the switch to Spin.

McCreevy’s challenge

Perhaps his biggest challenge lies ahead, says the Irish Times of Irish Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy, whose budget must reconcile Ireland’s prosperity with the shakiness of the world economy.

He also faces the challenge of preparing a budget that will please voters: with the current coalition up for election again sometime before next summer, McCreevy also needs to please everyone — an impossible task, says the Times’ Jane Suiter.

However, Suiter said she still thinks that McCreevy can weave some more magic out of his ledgers.

“A key consideration for Mr. McCreevy in balancing these competing objectives is deciding how much he can borrow,” Suiter said. “The minister would certainly prefer not to have to borrow at all, and politically it is likely that he will wish to minimize the actual amount involved and to keep the overall figure below _790 million.”

Rewards for Eircom bigs

By the sweat of their brow, the directors of Eircom have between them collected a total of _400,000, for the work of selling the company to Valentia.

CEO Ray MacSherry creamed off a cool _100,000 on top of his annual salary of _110,000. Non-executive directors collected about _30,000.

The payments were made two weeks ago when the directors stepped down to facilitate the takeover by Valentia.

On the additional payments to Eircom directors, a spokesperson said they reflected the extra work done by directors in the last year. Some directors were required to attend up to 60 meetings during the year, compared with the normal level of about eight board meetings, the spokesperson said.

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