Shining Emerald

ooking for some good news? Take a gander at Ireland, where tourism marketing and politics both have taken a turn for the better.

On the political side, the Irish Republican Army began the long-awaited process of putting its weapons beyond use.

Its leaders saw the value in distancing the group from the terrorist mentality that has laid another war on the doorstep of the U.S.

And Sinn Fein leaders know that, in this new world of terror, the flow of cash from American supporters to the political party's coffers would disappear without the promised decommissioning.

The move will ease tensions and show stability going forward, and will remove the possibility that the new power-sharing government will again collapse, as it has done twice in recent months.

On the tourism side, the Irish Tourist Board unveiled a promotional campaign aimed at spurring off-season visits to Ireland by U.S. travelers, particularly Irish-Americans.

A highlight of the Irresistible Ireland -- Irresistible Bargains ad campaign, to be promoted mainly in ethnic media, is a series of $389 air-inclusive tour packages combining hotel and country-home stays for up to six nights.

That's a great deal. The tourist board is smart to capitalize on the off-season. The destination is a short hop from the East Coast, compared to points on the Continent, and the price just might be low enough to appeal to folks who are eager to take a peace-of-mind break in an English-speaking country.

And, as planned many months ago, the merger of the Irish Tourist Board and Northern Irish Tourist Board will be completed Nov. 30. This will spawn lots of new initiatives for next year's high season.

My money is on Ireland to become the first foreign country to rebound from the worldwide tourism slowdown. I hope I'm right.

Donna Tunney is executive editor of Travel Weekly, Travel Weekly Crossroads and Travel Management Daily.

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