Travel Weekly's Ireland E-Letter Aug. 7, 2003

AERPACKAGES: Aer Lingus is back in the packaged vacation business, peddling air-inclusive on-line "Aerpackages" priced from $717 per person, based on double occupancy, for travel Sept. 1 to Oct. 15. For example, the $717 "B&B" package includes roundtrip air from Baltimore, Boston or New York; use of a rental car for seven days; six night's bed-and-breakfast accommodations; and daily Irish breakfast. Other departure gateways are available -- at a higher cost -- as are departure dates later in the year, at a lower cost. "Aerpackages" offerings -- only bookable on line -- also include the four-night "Glimpse of Dublin," priced from $736, and the $936 per person "Three City Stay" deal to Dublin, Galway and Killarney. Aer Lingus is not paying travel agents commission on these Web-only deals; for more, check out www.aerlingus.com.

BLUE SKIES: Dublin-based European lowfare airline Ryanair said it achieved record traffic and profit growth for the quarter ended June 30. Passenger traffic grew by 45%, to 5.1 million, although average load factors and yields were down. Ryanair -- which models itself on successful U.S. carrier Southwest -- blamed those dips on the launch of 50 new routes and two new bases of operation; the weakness of the U.K. pound vis-a-vis the euro; the closure of recently acquired competitor Buzz for the month of April; and its continuing pledge to offer the lowest fares. But total revenues rose by 26%, while adjusted net profit increased by 12%, to a record $49.5 million. For more, visit www.ryanair.com.

BYE, AER RIANTA: Looking to spur development through competition, Ireland's Dept. of Transport decided to split up airport management monopoly Aer Rianta and establish independent authorities at the country's three largest airports -- Dublin, Cork and Shannon -- within one year's time. "Under the new arrangements the three airports will compete with each other and vigorously to pursue new business, free from central control," said Minister for Transport Seamus Brennan. "This healthy competitive tension and unrestricted quest for new routes, airlines and passengers will grow the business to the benefit of the airports, the regions, tourism, job creation and the country overall." The new Dublin Airport authority will inherit all of Aer Rianta's debt; the Dept. of Transport has not yet decided on the future of Aer Rianta's other holdings. For more, visit www.transport.ie.

OFF TO IRELAND: Fifty new Ireland specialists accredited by Tourism Ireland's Shamrock Club program will set off on six-night tours of western and northern Ireland -- including stops in Galway, Sligo, Derry, Belfast and Dublin, as well as to the Cliffs of Moher, the Giants' Causeway and Bunratty Folk Park -- this October. The $499 all-inclusive fam trip "is one of the many program benefits you can only avail yourself of by completing our online course," notes program manager John Daly. Agents interested in qualifying for next year's graduation trip can check out the Shamrock Club Web site at www.shamrockclub.net/register, which offers access to five online education and certification modules and other interactive features. For more information, call Daly at (212) 418-0835.

BEAT GOES ON UP NORTH: Advise clients both tin-eared and "at-tuned" to take in the tempos at the wealth of music festivals and events set for late summer and early fall up in Northern Ireland. For more information on music in Northern Ireland, visit www.tourismireland.com/festivals.html or www.discovernorthernireland.com/events. A sampling of events set this year follows:
• Irish Classical Guitar Festival, Aug. 28 to 31, University of Ulster Magee Campus, Derry, www.ulster.ac.uk/culture/guitar.
• The Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival, Sept. 5 to 7, Ulster-American Folk Park, Omagh, County Tyrone, www.folkpark.com.
• Ards International Guitar Festival, Oct. 2 to 5, Newtownards, County Down, www.ardsguitarfestival.com.
• Mid-Ulster Folk Fest, Oct. 3 to 5, Burnavon Arts & Cultural Centre, Cookstown, County Tyrone, www.burnavon.com.
• Derrygonnelly Traditional Music Festival, Oct. 10 to 12, Country Fermanagh, www.fermanagh.gov.uk.

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