NEW YORK -- In the aftermath of a car bomb in Northern Ireland that
killed 28 people, including two tourists, officials expressed hope
that any negative business impact will be limited.
"We have had some calls from people reconsidering their
itineraries and seeking advice, and we are telling them that
security in Northern Ireland will be heightened," a spokeswoman for
the Irish Tourist Board said.
An IRA splinter group called the Real IRA was thought to be
responsible for the bombing, apparently carried out in retaliation
against the May 22 unification accord.
"As a result of the peace process, greater numbers of tourists
have been going to Northern Ireland and adding Northern Ireland to
visits to the [Republic] of Ireland," the spokeswoman said.
James Murphy, president of Brendan Tours in Van Nuys, Calif.,
said his firm has "seen no negative reaction in terms of bookings,
and we would not expect any. People seem to have become used to the
idea that there are problems in the north of Ireland, and it will
become a difficulty for us only if there is a second and a third
[violent incident]." Murphy added that all of the company's tours
that include Northern Ireland are fully booked through
More cautious was Kathy Gorman, vice president of New York-based
Lismore Tours and Lismore Travel, a tour operator and travel
agency. "We [operate] two motorcoach itineraries in Northern
Ireland from May to September, and we are considering canceling or
redirecting our departures for September," she said. "[The bombing]
is on too large a scale for us not to react in some way, and who
knows what could happen next?"
Brian Twomey, president of O'Connor Fairways Travel in New York,
reported no cancellations but said, "There might be a shift, with
people flying into Shannon instead of Belfast. "We have had some
hesitance but no cancellations as yet," noted Bert Accomando, owner
of Scepter Charters, Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y., which operates four
flights a week from New York to Ireland. "A couple of people have
called with concerns, but we are assuring them that everything is
Nancy Woodrow, vice president of Travel Designs, Fairfax, Va.,
said that many of her clients visit Ireland on FITs. "We have had
no calls, but we have no way of knowing how the bombing might
affect the itinerary of people touring by car."
Calling the explosion "not unexpected," Brian Stack, president
of CIE Tours in Morristown, N.J., admitted "we have no idea" what
the effect will be on tourism. He added, however, that the
company's telephones were "ringing off the hook" in response to ads
placed over the weekend in the consumer press.
Roy Bailie, chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board,
condemned the bombing but refused to speculate on its business
Noting that 1997 was a record year for travel to Britain, the
British Tourist Authority issued a statement deploring the bombing
and expressing confidence in the overall security of the
The statement said, "The BTA hopes that overseas visitors will
see it as an isolated incident and thus continue to regard Britain
as a hospitable, safe and friendly place to visit."
The Aug. 15 explosion caused the highest death toll in nearly 30
years of violence, including, for the first time, two foreign
visitors, sources said. The tourists were part of a group of 28
Spanish schoolchildren and teachers who had been visiting the
Ulster-American Folk Park nearby.
The blast took place in Omagh, a quiet market town of about
20,000 inhabitants located about 50 miles from Belfast and off the
main tourist routes.