TRAVEL Extra’s Sunday Supplement December 14 2014: Will air fares drop in 2015?



Celine Duffy of Cruisescapes, Clare Dunne of Travel Broker and Maurice Sheil of Topflight on board Fred Olsen cruise ship Boudicca in Dublin

Celine Kenny of Cruisescapes, Clare Dunne of Travel Broker and Maurice Sheil of Topflight on board Fred Olsen cruise ship Boudicca in Dublin

The headlines this week:

*Will air fares drop? Don’t hold your breath

*Domhnall’s day as Avolon goes to market

*Star Aliance shines brightly

*Dublin direct to the Caribbean

*Snow still very slow

Travel Extra TV

video-of-week-Dec-14A tight squeeze: Our video of the weekshows skier Cody Townsend taking on a five-foot-wide vertical chute down an Alaskan mountain. Watch here.

  • This video shows YouTuber Thomas N and his friend walking on a frozen lake in the High Tatras Mountains in Slovakia froze over: Watch here. Meanwhile, footage uploaded to LiveLeak shows fish swimming at the bottom of Blanktjarn Lake in Northern Sweden while locals skate on the layer of ice on top. Watch here.
  • Tourism Ireland uploaded a Chinese-language video showcasing Ireland’s links with China. Watch here.
  • TV presenter and qualified pilot Carol Vorderman called for more female airline pilots. Watch here.
  • A sneak peak of Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore. Watch here.
  • Aer Lingus and Tourism Ireland uploaded a video entitled ‘Ireland is always in season’. Watch here.
  • The Adventure Travel Trade Association uploaded the final video from last October’s summit in Killarney. Watch here.
  • WestJet brought “a snowy Canadian Christmas” to a community in the Dominican RepublicWatch here.
  • From concept to reality: Qatar Airways’ A350 WB, part one (watch here) and part two (watch here).


tony-tylerThe International Air Transport Associationsays air fares will drop by 5pc next year thanks to a 40pc drop in oil prices and a stronger economy. Global airline profits will reach $19.9bn this year, up from the $18bn projected in June, and are on course to hit $25bn in 2015. Tony Tyler (pictured), IATA’s Director General and CEO, said the fall in oil prices should strengthen the upturn next year but a 3.2pc net profit margin does not leave much room for deterioration in the external environment before profits are hit. Will flying get cheaper next year? Probably not. Airline executives at the round of aviation conferences have been predicting a blood bath. But airlines are notoriously slow at passing on the savings they are making on plummeting oil prices. The IATA prediction of 5pc excludes surcharges and taxes. IATA which represents 240 airlines, or 84pc of total air traffic, says airlines are still stuck with contracts for fuel that pre-date the price slumps. IATA’s chief economist, Brian Pearce said “it’s going to be six months or so before airlines are seeing lower fuel costs, and at that point consumers are likely to see a fall in travel costs.”


Cruise passengers have been celebrating the news that direct pick-ups are back in Dublin in 2015, including a 34-day Caribbean cruise for the first time. To bring the message home, Fred Olsen’s Boudicca was back in Dublin and Belfast this week for a series of mini-cruises that brought the Norwegian-founded, English-based cruise line back to sales levels not seen since the heyday of the late lamented Ken Lendrum.

The mini cruises were a happy accident: tour operator Cruise118 was unable to fill a planned charter and the ship was handed back to Fred Olsen at short notice.

alan-lynchAlan Lynch, the GSA of Fred Olsen in Ireland since last spring, was a happy beneficiary as he sent groups of 70 on each of the two-day mini cruises at bargain rates and hosted an agents’ ship visit (listen here). For anyone who remembers the phone kiosk cabins in the Black Watch or the Tartan malfunction that was the interior décor of the old Balmoral, the stylish Boudicca was a revelation. Kate Wooldridge of Fred Olsen countered the suggestion that Fred Olsen’s ships are small and old: “Yes, but they have had more face lifts than any woman of their age.” (listen here) Black Watch departs for the Canaries on Nov 9 on a 34-night round trip with prices from €4,959pps. Black Watch cruises from Belfast to the Bay of Biscay (from €999pp) on Oct 16 and the Canaries (from €1,729pp) on Oct 24. Picture shows Alan Lynch with Martin Skelly, president of the ITAA and Kate Wooldridge.  See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

CDG-groupAir France showcased the facilities at Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2E for travel media this week. Jean Paul Claret and Betinna Vetureau highlighted clearer signage, more spacious terminal, lounge and more efficient check in and security facilities at Terminal 2E, enabling transfer passengers to pass through in less than an hour, 20 minutes less than heretofore. Where three years ago 6pc of transfer passengers missed their flights, this is down to 0.6pc today, largely because connecting passengers are no longer dropped into public areas. CDG handles 450 departures and 450 arrivals a day and is Europe’s second biggest hub. Picture shows Rachel Lindsay, Gary Mason, Betinna Vetureau, Elena Valdeon of Air France,  Jean Paul Claret of Air France, Eoghan Corry editor of Travel Extra and Declan Mescall of Travlebiz. See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

alan-sparlingJust as Alan Sparling, chair of Star Alliance Dublin, (pictured with Philip Airey of Sunway) was extolling the virtues of Heathrow Terminal 2 to guests at the group’s annual Christmas party, London air space was shutting down. The outage, due to a technical glitch at Swanwick, lasted just one hour and led to comparisons with December 7 of last year (a poster on asked: Any truth in the rumour that someone downloaded the Candy Crush Saga app and it crashed the computer?). Priority was given to landing craft after power was restored at 4.06pm, although departing aircraft faced delays of three hours. The unhappy coincidence was brushed off by the trade guests who were told that Heathrow T2 is the blueprint for Star Alliance to build similar terminals in LAX and Tokyo as well as a the recently opened Star Alliance Terminal in Sao Paolo. Alan Sparling also used the s-word, seamless, which Star used at start up but later avoided. “From 1997, when five airlines formed the alliance. to today, where Star encompasses 27 airlines with 185,000 daily departures to 1,316 airports in 192 countries, we stick to our core focus of offering seamless travel, global brand recognition and quicker connections. We are a small tightly knit community in the travel industry in Ireland, We work with each other and indeed, we compete with each other- but ultimately, we support each other.” See more pictures here or connect with the album on Facebook.

In Dublin: Lufthansa, on top of three daily to Frankfurt, will now go daily on the Dublin Munich route. Turkish Airlines is expanding from 12 a week to double daily on Dublin-Istanbul. Air Canada is going year round on Dublin-Toronto. United, with up to seven flights a day from Belfast, Dublin and Shannon to the USA, has a new Dublin-Chicago route. SAS is almost 50 years flying into Ireland and is opening a new Dublin-Gothenburg service. Ethiopian is the first African airline flying from Ireland, the first to operate the B787 in Ireland and the only airline flying Addis-Dublin and Dublin-LAX.

The snow cannons got firing at last as temperatures dropped across Europe. Some light snow fell on Monday and Tuesday in the Alps, adding to the snow cover. Much heavier snow fell across the Pyrenean resorts, many of which have been reporting very good skiing conditions Pal/Arinsal opens this weekend, meaning all the Andorran resorts will be offering skiing for the first time this season. In Austria the best skiing conditions remain predominately up on the glaciers and at altitude. Most resorts are back on course to open this weekend. French resortshad some fresh natural snow, with the most falling in the Val Thorens sector of the Trois Vallees. While most resorts are set to open this weekend, snow cover will be limited off piste and at low altitude. Switzerland got up to 25cm of snow in some places; more terrain is opening up and conditions are slowly improving. Courmayeur has delayed their opening date until December 20. Excellent early season conditions have also been reported at Baqueira-Beretand Sierra Nevada in Spain. Scandinavia is the place to be at the moment (Eurosport watchers will have noticed the world cup races were transferred from Val d’Isere and Courchelel to Arethis weekend), heavy snow was reported in Bulgaria, where the only open resort is BanskoScottish ski resorts have seen good snowfall. A large snowstorm hit California on Thursday night.

The chances of dying in an air crash in the US and Europe  are 1 in 29 million according to the latest survey for Allianz – the insurance group points out that there is more chance of being struck by lightning (1 in 10.5m). The aviation sector will see 3.3bn passengers fly this year compared with 106m in 1960. Air travel insurance is to rise because of increasing fleet values and passenger growth, pushing risk exposure through $1tn barrier in near-future.

Domhnal Slattery’s Avolon completed its long-awaited flotation on the New York Stock Exchange was a disappointment: shares fell 5pc on its debut on the New York stock exchange despite pricing the shares at $20, below its expected range of $21-$23. Avolon offered 13,636,363 common shares, and will not receive any of the proceeds from the offering.  Avolon has 49 customers in 27 countries including Ryanair, American Airlines, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Air Asia, Etihad and Aeroflot. The company is backed by private equity firms Cinven, CVC Capital Partners and Oak Hill Capital Partners, as well as Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

Travel Trade

Navan_Travel_3724Martin Skelly’s Navan Travel won the business innovation award at the Meath Chronicleawards in Navan.

Brendan Breen has been appointed CEO of Core Travel Ltd T/a eTravel. Brendan joins from Travel Department.

Amadeus announced the release of web-based sales and booking tool e-Power Consolidator.

tryphavana cross h&s copyLas Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority hired Tryphavana Cross (pictured) to re-establish its tourism marketing presence in Ireland.

Winners of the Hertz Travelport €50 weekly vouchers for November were: Jordan Fay of Neenan Travel, Sarah McCarthy of FCm Travel, Bernie Collins of Travel Leaders and Renee Kennedy of FCm Travel.

CarTrawler announced a new partnership with travel technology provider, Abacus International.

Azerbaijan Airlines signed a full content agreement with Travelport.

pat-o-briens-new-Orleans-austin-and-peterAustin Carroll of Platinum Travel and Dee Burdock of American Holidays were the Irish attendees at Travel South 2014 in New Orleans. The event attracted 439 delegates,120 buyers (up on 90 last year). Picture shows Austin Carroll at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans.

Des O’Mahony’s Dublin-headquarteredBookassist has won the Booking Engine Technology Provider award for the third successive year at the 21st World Travel Awards in Anguilla. Bookassist partners with hotels to build their brand online, drive direct business to their branded website, capture bookings and optimise online distribution and ensure they grow their margin per booking.

Etihad Airways - World Travel Awards Photo (1)Etihad Airways successfully defended its title as the World’s Leading Airline among 157 awards dispensed at the World Travel Awards. Picture shows Geert Boven, Dublin born Aubrey Tiedt and Khamis Al Blooshi at the event. Changi, Singapore won best airport.  Major hotel awards went to Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul (overall), Burj Al Arab (luxury), One World Hotel, Malaysia (MICE) InterContinental Davos (new), the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh (palace), InterContinental Bangkok (city), Sandals Royal Bahamian(all inclusive), Grosvenor House Dubai (business), Angel’s Peninsula, Turkey (family), Saxon Hotel, South Africa (boutique),InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (brand) and La Cigale Hotel, Qatar (dining and excellence in service). Royal Caribbean won best cruise line and American Cruise Lines best rivercruise. Universal Orlando won the themed resort award, Abu Dhabi won the Tourist Board award. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Dubai the spa resort and InterContinental Samui Baan in Thailand the Wedding Resort. The World’s Most Romantic Resort is Sandals Grande Antigua. Roomorama won the award for Peer-To-Peer Travel Accommodation Marketplace.

Funway will launch its new 2015/16 Mexico and Dominican Republic brochure on January 2.

skal michael byrneSkal’s President’s lunch took place on Wednesday at The Herbert Park Hotel. €1,200 was raised for St Vincent de Paul. Picture shows Conor O’Connell, Brigid O’Connell, Geraldine Rosney, Ewan Plenderleith, Jim and SKAL National President Nora Cronin.

Travel Professionals Skillnet training: Upselling Skills, Dec 16, Cost €110, More info/Bookings. First Aid, Dec 17, €110, More info/Bookings. Excel Level 2, Dec 18, €110, More info/Bookings. Facebook Marketing, Dec 18, €70, More info/Bookings.

Deal Watch

  • NITB offers of the week: 1 night B&B Tuesday-Friday at Newforge House, Magheralin from £90pps incl. mulled wine & mince pie on arrival, pre-dinner Christmas cocktail and chocolates, available on selected dates until Dec 31, call 028 926 11255 to book;2 nights B&B at The City Hotel Derry from £89pps incl. one evening meal, complimentary walking tour tickets, available until Dec 30, call 028 7136 5800 to book. 1 night B&B at Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen from £49pps incl. Sunday lunch, available until Dec 21, call 028 6632 3481 to book.
  • Book a ski holiday to Livigno today with Topflight and receive free ski books and free ski school. 7 nights self-catering Livigno Ski Apartments from €533pps, depart Jan 10.
  • Click and Go is offering 3 nights B&B in Donatello Hotel, Rome from €240pp incl. return Aer Lingus flights Dublin-Rome, taxes and charges, depart March 16.
  • Falconis offering 7 nights all inclusive Dublin to Kolymbia, Rhodes from €2,569 for two adults and one child or from €3.249 from two adults and two children, depart June 3.
  • Sunway’s US holidays Christmas sale: 7 nights Rosen Inn at Pointe, Orlando from €519pp, depart May 2015; 3 nights Pennsylvania Hotel, New York from €689pp, depart March 2015; 3 nights B&B at Circus Circus, Las Vegas from €719pp, depart May 2015; and 4 nights B&B at The Cova Hotel, San Francisco from €729pp, depart February 2015.
  • Thomsonis offering 7 nights all inclusive Dublin to Aghios Nikolai, Crete from €719pp, depart May 31.
  • Sunway is offering Dublin to Antalya, Turkey from €499pp, depart August 2 to September 6, 2015.
  • The Bloomsbury Hotel in London is offering a Sherlock Holmes package from £295 incl. overnight stay for two people, breakfast, two tickets to the Sherlock Holms exhibition, afternoon tean and a Sherlock Holmes miniature book. Package available from January 5 to April 12.


  • trivago-calendarsTrivago had some surprises in their advice calendars showing the best months to book a hotel in 47 cities. Data for Dublin shows May, June and September are more expensive than July or August. These averages are calculated from 700,000 hotels on 175 booking sites over the last three years.
  • Quadriga has become the third international European technology supplier to achieve Marriott International’s rigorous Global Property Network Standards EMEA certification.
  • HRS’ latest survey of 100 business travel buyers in Ireland is intriguingly entitled Business travellers versus bosses: Who’s taking advantage of who when it comes to justifying a night away on business?
  • Ireland was ranked among the world’s 25 most expensive destinations for Airbnb and hotels.
  • Lay off the beans. Lonely Planet listed the top 10 rules of hostel etiquette.
  • The Generator Hostel brand is to open a new “Haute” hostel in Paris In 2015.
  • Lowcostbeds, the Swiss-based trade bed bank headed up by Clem Walshe in Ireland, said city breaks grew to over 15pc of overall bookings. Barcelona, Marrakech, Amsterdam and Rome represented the bed banks top city break sellers. Long haul sales share grew with Dubai, Las Vegas, Miami and New York 100pc up on 2013. Four and five star hotels have been at the forefront of demand, with the average hotel rating category increasing from 3.9 to 4.3 in the last year.
  • Luxury hotel operator YOO Hotels & Resorts will open the Aqua Boracay resort in the Philippines in December 2015.
  • Airbnb said it now has 1m properties listed on its website.
  • Annual revenue at the five-star Druids Glen resort in Wicklow is expected to increase by 9pc.


  • A report by Next Generation Nepal suggested that volunteering in orphanages in Nepal may be fuelling child trafficking. The report, The Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering: Combating Child Trafficking through Ethical Voluntourism”. It says 90pc of “orphanages” in Nepal are located in the top five tourist districts and children are being used as “poverty commodities” to raise money from foreign volunteers and donors. It claims that, of the 15,000 children in orphanages in Nepal, two out of three of these children are not orphans.
  • Germany’s Tourism Board reported that tourism overnights from Ireland rose 23pc for January-September. September 2014 is up 26.4pc on September 2013.
  • Vienna ball dancing season kicked off last month, with a number of events taking place in the new year, including the Sliversterball on New Year’s Eve, the Confectioner’s Ballon January 15 and the Vienna Philharmonic Ball on January 22.
  • Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority reported a 25pc increase (2.8m guests) on hotel and hotel-apartment check-ins.
  • SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison announced he will step down on January 15, 2015.
  • All high speed Eurostar services to Brussels are cancelled tomorrow (Dec 15).
  • Ernesto Guevara, Che Guevara’s youngest son, has set up tour company La Poderosa Tours, offering Harley-Davidson tours of Cuba following the footsteps of the Marxist revolutionary.
  • Dublin-based walking tour operator HostelCulture International was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Association in England for falsely claiming it was recommended by TripAdvisor.
  • The leader of a 12-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon was fined almost $2,500for littering.

Food & Wine

Catherine Fulvio leaning on gateRenvyle House Hotel hosts a themed weekend Italian Flavours Food & Wine Weekend (Feb 20-22) with Catherine Fulvio (pictured) of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School the guest of honour. The weekend kicks off on Friday night with an evening of antipasti and Italian wine tasting.

Visit Scotland’s Year of Food & Drink: Isle of Harris Distillery in Tarbert opens in spring 2015; Sprit Speyside Festival takes place in Ediburgh’s Whisky Strammash on World Whisky Day (May 15); Scone Palace Chilli Festival, Perthshire, Sept 2015; The Golden Spurtle porridge making championships, Carrbridge, October; Big Burns Supper Festival, Dumfries, Jan 23 to 31.


Belfast Reyjavik launch 001EasyJet launched the first direct service between Belfast and Reykjavik. The flight operates twice per week on Mondays and Fridays on a 156 seater Airbus A319 with 30,000 passengers expected to use the new service during the first 12 months. Fares start from £31.99pp one way. Picture shows Belfast International Airport managing director Graham Keddie with Captain Pat Moran and easyJet Commercial manager Ali Gayward.

The European Commission has tasked the SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) Deployment Alliance, an unprecedented cross industry partnership made up of four airline groups, operators of 25 airports and 11 air traffic control providers, to plan and coordinate a wholesale modernisation of European airspace to coordinate and synchronise €3bn worth of upgrades to the continent’s air traffic management infrastructure.

Finnair has given two of its A321 Sharklet aircraft new Christmas-themed liveries and increased the number of flights to Lapland, especially from Helsinki to Kittilä, Ivalo and Rovaniemi, and with improved flight connection times from European flights.

Launch of the GAA World Games sponsored by Etihad AirwaysEtihad will sponsor the inaugural World GAA Games in Abu Dhabi, which takes place March 5 to 7. Picture shows Amy Wilders and Amanda Crabbe, both Etihad Airways, with Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill at the launch of the GAA World Games, Croke Park.

  • Luxair is to increase its Dublin-Luxembourg service by 50pc from summer 2015.
  • American Airlines are to upgrade the craft on the Dublin-JFK route to a B763.
  • Cork Airport head of communications told the Neil Penderville show that the airport is to build a second air bridge and give it use for free to airlines that will use it.
  • Dublin airport reminded passengers not to wrap Christmas presents as hand luggage.
  • Flybe are terminating services to Waterford from Manchester and Birmingham after March 27. Flybe put on sale its 2015 summer schedule, which features 144 routes, leaving Waterford without any air services.
  • Shannon terminal passenger results for November showed a 26pc increase on the same month last year, up from 77,002 to 97,292.
  • Etihad cargo is on track for its best ever performance in 2014.
  • Emirates Airline‘s €4m investment in wine: 160 different wines offered to customers during the year, 1.2m bottles aging in the airline’s own wine cellars in France.
  • Santa Ex 7CityJet and Temple St Hospital hosted their annual Santa flight where 30 children from the hospital and their families enjoyed an hour-long flight in the company of Santa and his helpers.
  • Delta expanded its partner chef menus on European routes.
  • European airline associations called on the EU to reject air traffic control price hike proposal.
  • Dublin Airport is now listed on Google Indoor Maps in Ireland.
  • Singapore Airlines agreed to honour business class bookings that were mistakenly sold at economy prices.
  • The_Loop_Personal_Shooppers_1214ARI Ireland launched a free personal shopping service at The Loop, Dublin Airport. Email to pre-book.
  • American Airlines will invest $2bn in upgrading customer experience: including fully lie-flat seats, Wi-Fi, more inflight entertainment, a new look for Admirals Club lounges and more options for complimentary foods and drinks.
  • Etihad Airways - San Francisco business lunch Photo 2Etihad Airways‘ order for new Boeing aircraft will support 200,000 American jobs, the airline’s President and Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan (pictured), claimed at a US Business Council lunch in San Francisco to celebrate the launch of the non-stop flights to San Franciscoon Nov 18.
  • American Airlines’ total revenue passenger miles for November was $16.2bn, down 0.5pc.
  • Flybe’s 2015 summer schedule is on sale now.
  • Delta Arrivals Lounge main loungeDelta Air Lines opened its Arrivals Lounge at T3, London Heathrow. BusinessElite passengers, SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum Medallion members arriving from the US will have free access to the facility, which is open 6am-2pm.
  • Etihad Airways and South African Airways expanded their partnership with a daily service between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi from March 29.
  • A Southwest Airlines flight had to be diverted after a passenger went into labour shortly after take-off.
  • Vice president of Korean Air, Heather Choapologised for delaying a flight after she ordered the aircraft to return to the gate so she could remove a crew member who had incorrectly answered a question about the airline’s nut policy.


Stena Line will be adding extra tonnage to the Dublin-Holyhead route in early 2015 with the ship, Stena X.

SeaDream Yacht Club has appointed Alan Lynch’s Cruisescapes as its preferred partner in Ireland. SeaDream offers inclusive cruises for 56 couples on each of its two mega-yachts, each with a crew of 95.

Three crew members from Oceania Cruises’ Insignia died and a fourth is in hospital in St Lucia after a fire on board. Passengers were not put in a hotel overnight but instead waited in the ferry terminal, where Oceania had rented extra chairs so everyone had a place to sit.

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering up to $1,000 free on-board spending money per stateroom.

Princess Cruises say that a norovirus outbreak on Dawn Princess is well on the way to being resolved. The 1,950-passenger ship left Melbourne, Australia, on 28 November and is due to return Thursday after a 13-day cruise to New Zealand.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd named Michael Bayley president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International and replaced him as president and CEO at Celebrity Cruises with Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, formerly executive vice president, operations at RCI.

Bus Éireann Eurolines announced additional coach & ferry services with Irish Ferries from Dublin to Birmingham and London. The additional services will run from Dec 17 to Jan 4 (excluding Dec 24, 25, 26 and 31).


Titanic belfast academyTitanic Belfast‘s education programme launched a new seminar, From White Star To Five Star, for students studying Travel and Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management. Students from Belfast Met College in Titanic Quarter were first to experience the new seminar in the visitor attraction.

CSO reported that for the first nine months of the year an estimated €2.8bn was spent by overseas visitors in Ireland.

Dublin Convention Centre has secured 120 events in the last six months, including 25 international conferences forecast to generate €30m for the local economy.

Wild Atlantic Way Receives ‘Best Tourist Attraction’ AwardWild Atlantic Waywas awarded the ‘Best Tourist Attraction’ at the third InBUSINESS Editor’s Choice Awards at a ceremony in Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club, Dublin. Picture shows Ian Talbot, Chief Executive, Chambers Ireland and Joseph O’Connor, Editor, InBUSINESS Magazine, presenting the award to Fiona Monaghan, Fáilte Ireland.

Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare is the only Irish destination to be named in the inaugural Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100.

Christmas in Wexford#BDA5ACA 40-day Christmas festival is underway in Wexford until January 6th and visitors are having a thrill at ‘Wexford Winterland’. The outdoor festival taking place at venues across Wexford town features an Ice-Rink on Wexford’s Quayside and a series of event all set to take place as part of ‘Selskar Under the Stars’.

President Michael D Higgins met 900 Chinese travel trade, media and airline reps in Shanghai on Thursday at a Tourism Ireland-organised event as part of this week’s State Visit to China. The event focussed on the new British-Irish Visa Scheme, and Tourism Ireland presented Chinese operators and agents with ‘Ireland Specialist’ awards.

NITB Christmas events: Titanic Belfast’s Christmas Experience, Dec 23; LegenDerry On Ice, Ebrington Square, Derry, Jan 18; Belfast Christmas Market, City Hall, Belfast, Dec 21; Days of Christmas Pass, Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, Co Tyrone, Dec 21;Santa’s IceCapades, Navan Centre and Fort, Armagh, open until Dec 22; Aladdin Christmas Panto, The Grand Opera House, Belfast;Jack and the Beanstalk Christmas Panto, The Belfast Waterfront; Once Upon a Fairytale Exhibition, W5, Odyssey Arena, Belfast; Sheans Horse Farm, Ballycastle, Antrim, until Dec 21.

Bus Éireann is offering discount day return fares on Galway services to Galway City until Dec 24. Fares cost €10 for adults and €5 for children travelling from Kinvara, Gort, Tuam, Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Headford, Clifden, Mountbellew, Lettermullen and Carraroe to Galway City.

Demand High for Irish Open 2015 as Rory Returns as HostNITB and The European Tour are reminding golf fans to book early for 2015’s Irish Openat Royal Portrush, Co Down. The event will be hosted by Rory McIlroy’s charity, The Rory Foundation. Tickets are £25 until Dec 31 (£35 from Jan 1). Children under 16 go free. Picture shows the European Tour’s Irish Open Championship Director Antonia Beggs with NITB’s ROI Market Manager Fiona Cunningham and Chief Operating Officer Kathryn Thomson in Dublin.

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