Tourism chief warns electronic travel permits will hit NI hotels

 Monday, January 23, 2023 

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Compulsory electronic travel permits for international visitors will impact Northern Ireland hotels, the Tourism Ireland chief executive has said.

Under UK government plans due to be enforced next year, non-British and non-Irish EU citizens will need to apply for Electronic Travel Authorisation before coming to the UK.

The move could mean Irish tour operators would be responsible for the paperwork of tourists if they visit NI.

Niall Gibbons has criticised the plans.

The Home Office published the proposals in July last year.

The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) would require international tourists who want to travel onwards to Northern Ireland from the Republic, even if it is just for a day trip, to apply for pre-travel clearance.

The system would be similar in nature to the declaration that international passengers have to fill in before travelling to the United States or Canada.

The Tourism Ireland chief executive said that he hopes the government does not apply the proposals to Northern Ireland or introduces a waiver for those travelling to Northern Ireland.

He believes if they are introduced it could mean some tour operators will consider having their guests stay overnight in the Republic of Ireland rather than bringing them to Northern Ireland.

Speaking to a programme, Mr Gibbons said the feedback from travel agents indicated some could avoid Belfast or Londonderry.

The bottom line is that 70% of visitors from North America and mainland Europe who come to Northern Ireland do so via the Republic, said Mr Gibbons.

‘Switch bed nights from Belfast to Dundalk’

Mr Gibbons said the feedback so far indicates that some operators will opt out of the Northern Ireland market.

The feedback we have from some operators is that they will switch bed nights from Belfast to Dundalk, from Derry to Donegal and from Enniskillen to Sligo. It will just be easier for them.

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Announcing the ETA proposals last year, UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said it would not be an “onerous” requirement.

He indicated to MPs that it would likely cost about £10, would be valid for more than a year and would cover multiple trips.

Mr Foster said it was part of a wider UK effort to improve both border security and customer service for travellers.

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