Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: Jan. 15, 2004

FAM-TASTIC: Celtic Tours is offering a four-night familiarization tour of Ireland, departing from New York on Aer Lingus Feb. 13 at a cost of $500. The fam spends two nights in Killarney and two nights in Galway and includes full Irish breakfast and dinner daily, an educational seminar and daily sightseeing by motorcoach with professional driver/guide. The trip also includes visits to Blarney Castle, Blarney Woolen Mills, the Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry and Connemara. Celtic is also offering free fam trips to agents who book a new group of 25 or more on a summer 2004 scheduled motorcoach tour. Contact Celtic Tours at (800) 833-4373 for more details on the free fam trips or to book the February departure.

AIR WISE: Aer Lingus, now billing itself a "low-cost airline," reduced winter fares to Ireland yet again, with one-way Quick Trip online fares at www.aerlingus.com starting at $99 each way from New York, Boston, Baltimore/Washington and Chicago to Shannon or Dublin, for travel through Feb. 29. March fares start at $114 each way. There is no Saturday night-stay requirement when clients stay a minimum of four days. From Los Angeles, fares start at $149 each way for travel through March 31,with no minimum stay but a maximum visit of six months. Fares are also bookable at (800) IRISH-AIR for a $15 surcharge.

AIR-PORTLY? Clients might find Irish airports a tad more crowded in 2004. Last year, Ireland's three international airports, in Dublin, Shannon and Cork, saw traffic rise a cumulative 5%, to more than 20 million passengers -- 1 million more than in 2002, according to airports authority Aer Rianta. Flights from North America accounted for most of the growth at Dublin -- which welcomed 15.9 million travelers -- and Shannon, where passenger levels went up 2%, rebounding to record, pre-Sept. 11 levels. Tiny Cork Airport -- with 2.2 million pax -- serves mainly European routes. For more on the airports, visit www.aer-rianta.ie.

RAIL WAYS: Rail pass purveyor ACP Marketing is in negotiations with Irish national railway Iarnrod Eireann to become a U.S. distributor of Irish rail passes this year, according to Tim Roebuck, ACP's vice president of U.S. sales and managing director of BritRail. In the meantime, the firm peddles the BritRail Pass + Ireland rail pass good for either five or 10 days' travel within one month on both the British and Irish rail networks, priced from $369 per adult in standard class. ACP pays agents 8% commission on rail passes. To book, call (201) 798-4601 or (866) 938-7245, or visit www.eurail-acprail.com. The BritRail + Ireland pass is also sold by Rail Europe, at http://agent.raileurope.com or (888) 382-7245, and DER, at www.der.com or (800) 782-2424.

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