NI Travel Rule May Damage Tourism

A new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme for foreign visitors travelling to Northern Ireland is causing concern among tourism interests north and south of the Border.

People legally resident in Ireland will be exempt from the requirement, but there is concern about the impact the measure will have on cross-border tourism. The new border control measure was a key Brexit promise and is due to come into force by the end of 2024.

Following lobbying from the Irish Government, all those legally resident in Ireland will be exempt, meaning non-Irish nationals living here will be able to travel freely to the North or other parts of the UK. But tourists travelling to Ireland who want to go to the North for more than 72 hours will be required to have an ETA. Those involved in cross-border tourism say that will be a logistical nightmare.

Group Operations Director at Pierce Kavanagh Coaches Caoimhe Moloney-Kavanagh said she fears it will impact on their business.

“Over 70% of our tourists stay in Northern Ireland for a quarter or a third of their time on the island of Ireland, so we really think this is going to affect us,” she said, adding that there is a lack of awareness among some tourists from North America that they are travelling in two different jurisdictions.

Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance CEO Joanne Stewart said they were very disappointed that cross-border tourism hasn't received an exemption. She said 70% of visitors to Northern Ireland come via Ireland.

The Irish Government says it welcomes the UK's decision to exempt Irish residents from the Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme and the fact that it won't operate routine immigration checks on the land border with Northern Ireland. But it says it’s aware of the risk it poses to the all-Ireland tourism economy and will continue to engage with the UK in this regard.