Tourism Boost Expected After Irish Vote

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NEW YORK -- The Irish "Yes" vote will boost U.S. leisure travel to Northern Ireland starting next year, agents and operators predicted.

Referendums on the sweeping agreement to reconfigure the balance of power in the province were approved in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on May 22.

"Obviously, we are delighted," said John Murray, president of Westport, Conn.-based ETM Travel Group.

The passage of the referendums will be good for tourism in the medium to long term, he said, adding that this summer's high season is not likely to be dramatically affected. "We are more likely to see an effect on the 1999 season," he said.

Nancy De Young, a travel consultant at Travel Designs of Fairfax in Fairfax, Va., agreed that Northern Ireland will not experience a significant jump in visitors this summer because most people already have planned their vacations.

De Young, who said she sends many clients to Northern Ireland, was "delighted at the outcome of the vote and would like to eventually see a unified tourist office come out of the agreement."

Although the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Irish Tourist Board already cooperate on some all-island promotions, tourism is among the areas slated for further development under the accord.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board said that a new structure for cross promotions has yet to be ironed out.

He added that the region is expecting more visitors this summer from vacationers who already were booked to other U.K. destinations and will pay a visit to the north.

Dennis Savage, senior vice president of Morristown, N.J.-based CIE Tours, noted that 42 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and many with family ties to Northern Ireland now will have more confidence in traveling there.

Allen Rich, director of Rich Worldwide Travel in Harrison, N.Y., and president of the Hudson Valley ASTA chapter, said most of his clients have not been interested in visiting Northern Ireland, but he predicted that will change.

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