Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: June 30, 2005

BUMPER TOURIST CROP: Belfast had a bumper year for tourism in 2004, according to new figures released by the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) June 23. According to BVCB chairman Ciaran Roger, the Northern Ireland capital recorded a 19% increase in overnight stays, to 841,000; 62% growth in leisure visitors, to 235,000; an 11% rise in total visitor numbers, to 5.9 million; and 13% growth in visitor spending. Business travel also rose by 14%. Cruise visits look set to rise, too, in 2005; 16 cruise ships carrying 37,000 international passengers will dock in Belfast this summer. Encouraged by these results, the BVCB has set a goal of growing local tourism by 50% in three years, said Roger. For more, visit www.gotobelfast.com.

CORK-N.Y. EXPRESS: County Kerry tour operator Slatterys Travel will launch first ever nonstop, transatlantic air service from Cork to the U.S., with new twice-weekly charter flights from Cork International Airport to New York (Kennedy) via Ryan International Airlines starting Oct. 27. The flights to operate from Cork on Mondays and Thursdays, with eastbound service on Sundays and Wednesdays are priced from 399 euros round-trip, or about $479 at press time. Ryan International will fly a 210-seat Boeing 757 single-aisle jet on the route. Tickets for trips from Cork to New York are currently on sale in Ireland; no word yet on planned sales of tickets in the U.S. for roundtrip flights to Cork. For more on Slatterys Travel, visit www.slatterys.com.

NIGHT CAPS: The Guinness Storehouse attraction in Dublin introduces later hours this summer, staying open until 8 p.m. daily in July and August.  Guinness also debuted a program of 10 to 15 minute evening classes, including tasting sessions; guided brewery-floor tours; an insiders look at the brewery; an advertising class focusing on noted designer John Gilroy; and a nightlife tutorial at the on-site Gravity Bar, now open until 9:30 p.m. daily. Free shuttles to the Storehouse depart Bewleys on Westmoreland St., in the city center, at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., returning at 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 and 9:45 p.m. For more, visit www.guinnessstorehouse.com.

CAPITAL IDEA: Dublins new Luas light-rail transit system introduced state-of-the-art, smart-card ticketing this spring. Customers pass their smart-cards over blue platform validator before boarding and after exiting trams; the validators emit audible confirmations and the fare is deducted from the cards. Luas cards cost from 10 euros and can be topped off with a maximum 100 euros in value at Luas machines. For more, visit www.luas.ie.

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