Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Feb. 5, 2004

VAX + PAX=CASH: US Airways Vacations is paying 17% commission on Distinctive Vacations to Dublin, Ireland, booked at www.vaxvacationaccess.com until March 10. Also, your clients earn 10,000 bonus frequent flyer Dividend Miles for Distinctive Vacation packages booked by March 31 for travel through Dec. 31. US Airways restarts its seasonal service--launched last year-- from Philadelphia to Dublin and Shannon on May 8. Distinctive Vacations to Dublin include roundtrip transatlantic travel in US Airways' Envoy Class [and First Class on U.S. connecting flights]; superior hotel accommodations, at the Hilton Dublin, Jurys Ballsbridge or The Burlington; hotel taxes and service charges; and daily breakfast. Optional "Ireland Your Way" add-ons in Dublin include hop-on/hop-off bus tours [$13 per person] and tours of Dublin Bay and Dublin Castle [$24] and County Wicklow [$34. For more information, visit www.usairwaysvacations.com.

PRIDE & JOYCE: Irish tourism minister John O'Donoghue kicked off the ReJoyce Dublin 2004 Festival at an event Monday at the Guinness Storehouse in the Irish capital. The festival--usually a one-day affair in Dublin each June 16 to celebrate the fictional adventures of the Leopold Bloom character from James Joyce's literary masterpiece "Ulysses"-- this year is a five-month-long arts and events blowout, officially running April to August. However, many events are already under way. Highlights include a mass Bloomsday breakfast June 13, with food, drink and entertainment for about 10,000 on Dublin's O'Connell Street, and an exhibition running June 14 to July 31, 2005, at the National Library of Ireland on James Joyce and "Ulysses." For more information, see www.rejoycedublin2004.com, which features an events calendar.

ON THE UP AND UP: Record-breaking numbers of overseas visitors will arrive on Irish shores in 2004, said tourism officials at a recent briefing in Dublin, with visits from North America poised to grow 6.6%. "It is an ambitious target, but achievable," said Paul O'Toole, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, the overseas marketing joint venture of Failte Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. "Forecasts for 2003 show ... Ireland will have gained significant market share." Failte Ireland reported tourism growth of 4% in overseas arrivals and 5% in revenue for 2003. Failte Ireland said 94% of visitors last year indicated they were very satisfied with the visit; to repeat the feat in 2003, the organization said it will continue to focus on three key strengths--landscape, lifestyle and security. As for Dublin, Frank Magee, chief executive of Dublin Tourism, said the Irish capital will see a "reduction in [accommodation] prices" this year because of a projected increase in hotel rooms of 15% coupled, with a 5% jump in arrivals.

NO FLY ZONE: Ryanair protested a Feb. 3 European Commission decision that found cost-breaks the airline received at Belgium's Brussels South Charleroi Airport--a publicly financed, secondary facility farther from the capital than the main airport at Zaventem--were illegal state aid that must be repaid. The Irish low-fare carrier said the ruling would lead to higher fares and poorer service at small public airports across Europe, which have to compete with larger, better funded privately run airports such as Zaventem. Ryanair serves 21 destinations in Europe from Dublin, five from Shannon, two from Kerry and one each from Cork, Knock and Derry. Across Europe, the carrier flies 127 routes to 84 destinations in 16 countries. For more, visit www.ryanair.com.

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