Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Aug. 19, 2004

IRISH NOSH: CIE Tours International introduced a four-night, air-inclusive escorted vacation to Ireland priced from $796 per person from New York (Kennedy), Boston or Baltimore/Washington. Departures for this Taste of Ireland trip are slated on Tuesdays, Thursdays and some Saturdays, from Sept. 2 through Dec. 9, and from Feb. 10 to April 28. Rates include round-trip air; six-days' motorcoach sightseeing; accommodations at theBurlington Hotel, Dublin (one night), Killarney Towers (two nights), and Great Southern Hotel, Shannon (one night), or similar; four full Irish breakfasts and four dinners, including meals with entertainment at the Abbey Tavern and Bunratty Castle; welcome drink; tour and tasting at the Guinness Storehouse; tea and scones at an Irish farmhouse; and all taxes and hotel service charges. Land-only is also available from $529; for more on CIE -- which pays agents 10% on land and varying commissions on air -- call (800) 243-8687 or go to www.cietours.com.

WELCOME: The Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) and Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) opened a multilingual tourist information center in the arrivals area at Belfast International Airport, a move officials attributed to increased traffic in and out of the facility. Belfast's two airports reported increases of between 5% and 10% in inbound passengers this summer. And the BVCB said all visits to the city jumped this July, with 33,670 people calling at its Belfast Welcome Centre, a 20% rise compared to July 2003. Cruise travel also boomed in July, with ships depositing more than 5,000 passengers, along with an estimated $5 million to $7 million in revenue, at the Port of Belfast. Eight more vessels are due to dock at the port before Sept. 30, including Princess Cruises' Grand Princess, the largest such ship in the world. For more, visit www.gotobelfast.com.

WIRED IN IRELAND: The four-star Ardilaun House Hotel in Galway, a Select Hotels of Ireland property, introduced broadband Internet access in all its newly refurbished luxury bedrooms. The property also boasts both wired and wireless broadband in all its meeting rooms, making the 89-room hotel one of the few hot spots for WiFi connectivity in Ireland. Rates at the Ardilaun, which include breakfast, range from about $120 to approximately $315 per night. Limerick-based Select Hotels -- a collection of four-star-quality "European-style" properties in Belfast, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Connemara, Killarney, Kilkenny, Laois, Westport, Bettystown Beach, Waterford and Wexford -- pays agents negotiated commissions, starting at a base rate of 10%. For more information or to book, visit www.selecthotelsireland.com or send e-mail to [email protected] or call (011) 353-6 144-0440.

THE TOPS: Motorcoach operator The Dualway Group won the Ireland's Best Award for Service Excellence from Irish national tourism development authority Failte Ireland. The 26-year-old company is the first coach operator among 56 other such hospitality and tourism firms so honored to date. To win the designation, Dualway's staff and management of 120 underwent a process of "stringent training and assessment," according to Failte Ireland. The company is best known in Dublin for open-top bus sightseeing tours, but it also offers airport and ferry transfers, shuttle service, tailored excursions to destinations such as Kilkenny and Kerry, and vintage double decker bus rentals. For more on Dualway, visit www.dualwaycoaches.com; for more on Failte Ireland and its Ireland's Best program, go to www.failteireland.ie.

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