Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Dec. 30, 2004

HOLIDAY IN THE AIR: If your clients are passing through Irish airports this holiday season, they may be noting there's less elbow-room than ever. The Dublin Airport Authority, for one, predicts this Christmas will be its busiest ever, with almost 800,000 passengers passing through the Irish capital's airport from Dec. 22 to Jan. 5, a 7% jump compare to last year. Last Thursday, Dec. 23, was the busiest before Christmas, with 67,000 passing through, and today, Dec. 30, should be the busiest just after, with nearly 65,000 fliers expected to check in. For more on Dublin's airport, and long-awaited plans to expand overcrowded facilities, visit www.aerrianta.ie.

WINNERS ALL: Irish tourism board Failte Ireland received a record 2,600 nominations from 40 countries worldwide including 692 from the U.S. for its third annual Irish Welcome Awards program. The awards, in six categories ranging from transport to accommodation and visitor attractions, honor outstanding hospitality and service to leisure visitors from Irish suppliers and individuals.

Overall winner for 2004 was Pauline Hamill, of Limerick, a good Samaritan who aided a U.S. cyclist couple without accommodation in a rain storm last summer. Other winners included:

" Accommodation: Ariel House, Ballsbridge, Dublin;

" Bed & Breakfast: Liscubba House, Clonakilty, County Cork;

" Food and Drink: Holy Cross Bar and Restaurant, Butlerstown, County Waterford;

"Transport: Killary Tours, Leenane, County Galway;

" Visitor Attractions and Shopping: St. Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny.

For more on the Irish Welcome Awards, visit www.failteireland.ie.

TITANIC EFFORT: Belfast's city council and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board  (NITB) appointed a team of specialists to devise plans for a visitor attraction based on the famed ocean liner Titanic, built in Belfast, and also the city's more general industrial heritage. Some $136,000 has been committed to research the viability of a Titanic-themed attraction, which some predict could generate worldwide interest in Belfast. Such an attraction long discussed has been designated a "signature project" for the U.K. province in the NITB's Strategic Framework for Action 2003-07 plan. For more, visit www.gotobelfast.com.

UP IN THE EIRE: Irish low-fare airline EUjet will boost European flights from Shannon Airport in 2005, increasing services to Ibiza, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca in Spain; Kent, England; and Faro, Portugal. In addition, the airline will fly twice daily between Dublin and Kent. The airline reportedly hopes to fly some 1.3 million passengers next year. For more, visit www.eujet.com.

ATHBHLIAIN FAOI MHAISE DUIT: Or, "a prosperous New Year," in Irish Gaelic. Here's wishing a happy, healthy and lucrative 2005 to all our Travel Weekly Ireland E-letter readers.

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