Ireland Ready for Summer

Emerald Isle expects U.S. influx to return during vacation season

By: Lisa Jennings

By Lisa Jennings World events may have slowed travel to Europe, but Ireland’s tourism officials are optimistic that their U.S. visitors will increase this summer. About 20 percent of U.S. travelers to Ireland come from the Western states, said Tom Heneghan, Tourism Ireland’s West Coast marketing manager. This year’s major events include the Special Olympics, which opens in June in Dublin. More than 7,000 athletes will compete in Croke Park Stadium. Ireland is also gearing up to be host of the 2006 Ryder Cup golf tournament at the K Club, a five-star resort in Dublin, where a new golf course is being added to the playing options. US Airways this month is expected to launch daily air service from Philadelphia to Dublin and Shannon. Brendan Worldwide Vacations has two new specials: The “Distinctly Dublin” package includes four nights at Burlington Hotel, breakfast, a city tour, round-trip airport transfers and two Irish crystal glasses, starting at $498 including air on Aer Lingus from New York, Baltimore or Boston. “Country Roads of Ireland” is a seven-day fly/drive package including stays at bed-and-breakfast accommodations, car rental, tours of the Waterford Crystal Factory and Ring of Kerry, two crystal glasses and a discount card at Blarney Woolen Mills; from $558, with air from New York, Boston or Baltimore to Shannon, returning from Dublin. www.brendantours. com. CIE Tours is offering a nine-day “Irish Pub & Folk Tour” from New York, Boston, or Baltimore. The itinerary begins in Dublin and hits pub-friendly villages throughout the country, including stops at the “singing pub” in Killarney, and Kathleen’s Irish Ceili at Bunratty. The tour includes visits to the Guinness Storehouse and Old Jamison Distillery. From $978, including air. Far&Wide is offering a spring sale for Europe bookings through May 31, including two Ireland itineraries: “Ireland’s Friendly Bed & Breakfasts” offers a choice of more than 2,800 B & Bs. From $299, with a rental car, land only, for travel through June 20. “Ireland City Stay” hits Dublin, Killarney and Galway, and includes accommodations, car rental, and guided tours of the Ring of Kerry and Trinity College. From $449, land only. www.far Tourism Ireland (800-669-9967; www.tourismire has an education program for travel agents, called the Shamrock Club, with nearly 7,000 members. The club brings access to special promotions. Agents must complete a free online course.