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Irish heritage: A tour group at the ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise which is in County Offaly and dates back almost 1500 years

Great deals on flights to Ireland as airlines cut fares

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Irish heritage: A tour group at the ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise which is in County Offaly and dates back almost 1500 years

Travel to Ireland is on a downward curve this year. Tourism Ireland (www.tourismireland.com) reports that “the first 10 months of 2009 have proven to be a very tough period for tourism to the island of Ireland, and for tourism worldwide.”

Final figures are yet to be recorded, but Tourism Ireland anticipates “close to 8 million people will have visited” in 2009 from overseas. This compares to 8.7 million in 2008 and 9 million in 2007.

So what are the tourism officials doing in the face of adversity? They are not giving up!

Tourism Ireland has launched a major Tourism Marketing Drive for 2010. According to Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive – Tourism Ireland, “We are telling the world that the island of Ireland is very much open for business, is easily accessible by air and sea and, despite the downturn, we have a wealth of impressive new developments coming on stream – including the Convention Centre Dublin (www.theccd.ie), Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport (www.dublinairportauthority.com/Airport_Development/Terminal_2), the Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road (www.avivastadium.ie), and the Titanic building (www.titanic-quarter.com) in Belfast.”

Tourism leaders are also showcasing Ireland’s strengths: “Culture, heritage, literature, music, food and our warm, friendly people – all wrapped in a message that the island of Ireland has never offered better quality and value for money.”

So how does that affect you and me? For one thing, it has brought a wave of lower prices. Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com) announced transatlantic airfares to Ireland as low as $189 each way from NY for economy class for travel between January 11 and March 10. Although those fares expire on November 19th, it is likely that a new wave of sale fares will be announced later this year or early in the New Year.

Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com) is also doing something not often seen – selling its Premier business class seats from $849 each way based on a roundtrip from New York, Boston or Chicago. That’s less than half of the normal Premier fare. This offer is valid for travel from January 1 to April 30, 2010, but tickets must be booked by November 30.

Starting in mid-January, Continental (www.continental.com) is offering roundtrip fares starting at $402 from Newark to Ireland. That’s $201 each way plus taxes.

Until November 30th, CIE Tours International (www.cietours.com) is also offering a 5% discount on its escorted tours of Ireland in 2010. Eligible tours must be 9 days/7 nights or longer and you must use this code when booking: 113009EBD.

If you take advantage of these fares, more bargains await in Ireland. Irish Bus (www.buseireann.ie) has been twittering on the social networking site Twitter (http://twitter.com/buseireanndeals) about fares as low as 2 euro for travel between Dublin and Sligo, Letterkenny or Donegal, as well as between Limerick and Cork. Offers run until November 30.

Irish Rail (www.irishrail.ie) is offering fares on its web site of 10 euro each way from Dublin to Sligo, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Mayo and Belfast (applicable until November 28.)

Hotel groups are getting on the “real deal” bandwagon, too. More in our next column.

Patricia Preston has written 23 travel books (15 about Ireland). She is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers and the North American Travel Journalists Association. Visit Pat’s web site (www.IrelandExpert.com) or consult her latest book, Ireland Travel 101 (www.IrelandTravel101). Follow Pat on Twitter: http://twitter.com/IrelandExpert; Facebook: http://facebook.com/IrelandExpert; and My Space: http://www.myspace.com/IrelandExpert

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