Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Jan. 6, 2005

MIXED YEAR: In his annual end-of-the-year appraisal of the Irish tourism sector on Dec. 30, minister for arts, sport and tourism John O'Donoghue described 2004 as "a mixed year." While the government noted a strong recovery from the key North American market, traffic from Great Britain and mainland Europe was flat. Still, overseas visitor numbers grew some 3%, to more than 6.35 million.

Looking ahead, Ireland has set a goal of 4.7% growth in overseas visitors for 2005; aiding in that effort are the new American Airlines services from Boston and Chicago that are set to begin this spring. For more from the Irish government, visit www.arts-sport-tourism.gov.ie.

ULSTER'S BEST: The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is soliciting nominations for its 27th annual Northern Ireland Tourism Awards competition. Awards will be presented in 12 categories: flavor of Northern Ireland; pub; hostels/self-catering establishment; bed-and-breakfast/guesthouse; hotel; visitor attraction; people development; marketing excellence, small organization; marketing excellence, large organization; event; area tourism initiative; and individual contribution to tourism.

Downloadable application forms are available online at www.nitb.com or from Creative Events (NI) Ltd., 1 Dublin Road, Belfast BT2 7HB, Northern Ireland, U.K. (Tel: [011] 44-289 023-5001; Fax: [011] 44-289 023-5003; e-mail: [email protected]).

EVEN GREENER: Three Northern Ireland tourism partnerships Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, Mourne Heritage Trust and South Armagh Tourism Initiative are teaming with the NITB to promote eco-friendly, sustainable tourism with a trial "green" accreditation scheme. Each partner selected several tourism businesses, such as accommodations and attractions, in their region to participate in the Pilot Green Tourism Accreditation Scheme and later undergo an inspection for possible accreditation under the scheme; results will be made public early in 2006. Some 26 Northern Ireland businesses are taking part.

According to the NITB, the scheme may be adopted on a Northern Ireland-wide basis in the future.

IN THE AER: Continuing in what officials describe as its "bid to become the first low-fare/low-cost carrier in the transatlantic [market]," Aer Lingus is offering "last-minute" fares from the U.S. to Ireland for travel Feb. 1 to 28 at www.aerlingus.com. The one-way fares bookable now through date of departure, subject to availability are $164, from New York and Boston;  $174, Chicago; and $214, Los Angeles. These fares exclude taxes, fees, facility charges and the Sept. 11 security fee of $2.50.

OFF TO EIRE: Prime Tours based aptly enough in Dublin & Ohio is offering a six-night Ireland familiarization trip departing March 26 from Columbus, Ohio, to Shannon, Ireland, on Continental Airlines. The cost is $1,649 per person, double, and includes roundtrip airfare, accommodations, transfers, most meals, admission fees and sightseeing. The trip takes in the Cliffs of Moher, Ennis, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry and Waterford; accommodation consists of three nights each at both the Hotel Brehon in Killarney and Kilkea Castle, near Dublin. Companions can travel at the same rate; in addition, agents can sell the trip to clients at $1,799 per person, double, for 10% commission. Call (800) 833-1356; send a fax to (614) 766-5455 or e-mail to [email protected]. Visit www.goprimetours.com for a full itinerary.
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