Travel Weekly's Ireland E-letter: June 10, 2004

NEW TEAM: Brian Moore International Tours (BMIT) and sister company E.E.I. Travel -- both divisions of Europe Express, in Bothell, Wash. -- combined their sales management teams. "Our team of regional business development managers ... have been carefully selected to ensure that agents receive the highest standards of customer service," said BMIT president Ronan Ryan. Belfast native Neil Rodgers ([email protected]) handles the Northeast; Josanne Swain ([email protected]) is responsible for the Mid-Atlantic region; Tom Dillon ([email protected]) -- formerly of Brendan Tours, among others -- handles the Midwest; Sandy Saposnick ([email protected]) is BMIT's Southeast rep; and Jane Allen ([email protected]) is the West Coast sales manager. For more, visit www.bmit.com or www.eeitravel.com.

NO BUSINESS AS USUAL: Aer Lingus may eliminate business class on all short-haul routes by year-end, said CEO William Walsh, speaking at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Singapore on Tuesday. The Irish flag carrier had ditched business class on most flights under four hours back in February -- as the cabin wasn't generating enough revenue to justify expenses -- but retained the service on 10% of such routes, including flights to London (Heathrow). For more on Aer Lingus, visit www.aerlingus.com.

MORE TOUR IN '04: Celtic Tours added guaranteed departures for one summer tour and tweaked another, winter/spring itinerary for 2005. The firm added several departures of the nine-night Celtic Adventure through October. Priced from $1,458, land only, the tour includes a night on an Irish farm; one night at Kinnitty Castle; Irish breakfast daily; eight dinners, including a medieval castle banquet; and more. And Celtic now offers a choice of two itineraries for weekly departures of Celtic Traditions, from January through April of next year. Itinerary "A" -- four nights from $519, land only -- includes two nights' first-class hotel for two in both Killarney and Galway, breakfast and dinner daily, and sightseeing, while itinerary "B" --four nights from $559, land only --combines a hotel stay in Galway with two nights at Cabra Castle Kingscourt, along with meals and sightseeing. Before January 2005, Celtic Tradition operates as published: two nights, Galway; one night, Killarney; one night, Waterford. Celtic pays 10% to 15% on land for individuals and up to 17% on land for groups. Contact the company at (800) 833-4373 or www.celtictours.com.

CASH FOR CLIFFS: The Irish government freed up some $16.5 million in funds for 12 tourism development projects, including $12 million for rehabilitation of visitor facilities at the Cliffs of Moher. Tourism minister John O'Donoghue said facilities at the cliffs -- "one of Ireland's premier natural attractions" -- are limited and do not live up to standards expected by 600,000-plus annual visitors. In the works are a new visitor center, with audio-visual presentations and retail and catering facilities; cliff-edge improvements; and the introduction of cliff rangers as visitor guides. Ireland hopes the improvements bump visitor numbers up to 790,000 within five years. Other funding beneficiaries included the Dingle Oceanworld aquarium; the Shandon Hotel, in Port na Blagh, County Donegal; and the Knockranny House Hotel, in Westport, County Mayo. For more details, visit www.arts-sport-tourism.gov.ie.

ROYAL JEWEL: Sceptre Tours offers a seven-night Kingdom and Treasures tour that includes roundtrip air; bed-and-breakfast, hotel and manor accommodations; weekly car rental; full Irish breakfast daily; and admission to the Waterford Crystal Factory. Net pricing starts at $1,337 in June; $1,423 in July and August; $1,281 in September; $1,144 in October; and $843 in November and December. Rates are per person, double. For more information, call (800) 221-0924 or visit www.sceptretours.com.

THE TOPS: CIE Tours International is peddling Irish Supreme, a 10-night escorted vacation with stays at Ireland's top deluxe hotels, including legendary Ashford and Dromoland Castles, Mount Juliet Estate near Kilkenny, and the Berkeley Court and Westbury Hotels in Dublin. Priced from $2,760 -- with accommodations and air fare from New York (Kennedy), Boston or Baltimore -- the tour also includes full Irish breakfast daily; eight dinners; a catamaran luncheon cruise on Killary fjord ; a complete motorcoach sightseeing program, with attractions admissions, and more. Departures operate weekly, on Fridays, until Nov. 19. CIE also combines England, Scotland and Ireland in its 13-night British & Irish Voyager, priced from $2,540 with air fare from New York (Kennedy) or Newark, or from $2,710 from Los Angeles or San Francisco. Departures are available weekly, on Sundays , through Oct. 17. For more on CIE, which pays agents 10% on land and varying commissions on air, call (800) CIE-TOUR or visit www.cietours.com.

IRELAND ONLINE: Tourism Ireland relaunched its travel trade communications site, at www.tourismirelandinfo.com, after a three-month redesign and overhaul effort. Market development manager Jean McCluskey said the site is "where we post all our resources for the industry," including tour operators, travel agents and the media. New site features include downloadable e-postcards and logos; news updates from the Irish travel trade; packages and specials from U.S. operators; and all of Tourism Ireland's consumer resources, such as brochures and Web links. "It's one-stop shopping, really," said McCluskey, adding that a database of 2,500 trade Tourism Ireland partners -- including 160 U.S. tour operators -- regularly receive e-mailed hyperlink updates when the site is modified.

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