Tourism in Northern Ireland will suffer from the visa waiver, MPs say

A new visa waiver requirement for crossing the border could jeopardize £160million in tourism revenue to Northern Ireland and impact half a million tourists a year, Westminster MPs have heard.

Joanne Stewart, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, said most foreign tourists, more than 75% of whom are Americans, visit the North as part of a wider trip to Ireland.

“People want to travel hassle-free. If something is perceived as an additional obstacle or barrier, people will stay in the Republic of Ireland where they can move around and will not need any administration or additional costs,” she told the Committee of Northern Ireland affairs.

Payment of fees

“We estimate around £160m of visitor spending is at risk. We believe this could impact around half a million visitors. What we are proposing is that there is an exemption for people arriving on the island of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland and then crossing the land border into Northern Ireland.

Britain plans to introduce an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for all non-Irish and non-UK citizens entering Northern Ireland across the border. The system, which is similar to that in effect in the United States, would require online pre-registration and the payment of a fee to allow a visitor to cross the border.

The government has raised concerns with the UK government over the plan, which is part of a Citizenship and Borders Bill, but Tory MPs rejected a Lords amendment that would have exempted Ireland from the North of the program.

“Degree of disbelief”

Shane Clarke, director of business services, policy and Northern Ireland at Tourism Ireland, said there had been no consultation with industry about the scheme, which is due to be introduced in 2025 .

“There was a degree of disbelief that this was being offered – it’s an industry that’s been on its knees for two years due to Covid and they can’t quite believe this kind of regulation is being introduced,” he said. -he declares. mentioned.

“By introducing these kinds of additional requirements, not only did it add complexity and potentially cost, but in terms of potential visitors close to home, there are a lot of other places they can choose to visit and that will add a hurdle in terms of potential to visit the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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