Tourism body hits out at 'non-alignment of travel regulations across the island of Ireland'
AN organisation representing the tourism industry in Northern Ireland has hit out at the confusion and lost business due to the "non-alignment of travel regulations across the island of Ireland".
NI Tourism Alliance (NITA) called on the executive to address the issues, which it claimed was "impacting on booked business as far out as September and October".
Joanne Stuart from the body said the "disparity in travel regulations between the two jurisdictions is having a significant impact on visitors to Northern Ireland".
It comes after the Republic adopted the Covid vaccine certificate app, which provides digital proof that an adult has been fully vaccinated and also changed restrictions relating to people arriving from the EU and other safe countries.
But the NITA said the majority of countries that are now able to travel to the Republic are on the Northern Ireland amber countries.
This means visitors need to complete a UK passenger locator form, take a pre-departure test, a further test on day two and eight and quarantine for 10 days on their arrival in the north.
Ms Stuart said they are "starting to see the impact with widespread cancellations by tour operators for planned visits to NI".
"The disparity in travel regulations between the two jurisdictions is having a significant impact on visitors to Northern Ireland, as Dublin is the main gateway for out of state travel to Northern Ireland with 52 per cent of visitors travelling to NI via RoI," she said.
"Over 60 per cent of out of state visitors to NI spend time in the RoI during their stay.
"We are already starting to see the impact with widespread cancellations by tour operators for planned visits to NI which is affecting attractions/accommodation/tour guides and as a result the additional spend in hospitality and retail will be lost.
"Due to the lead in time of around six weeks to confirm travel plans, this is impacting September and October business as well as the short term."
Ms Stuart said there are concerns for the "potential impact on future business due to the reputational damage of NI as a destination".
"Tour operators may find alternatives in the RoI and there is no guarantee that attractions and experiences in NI will automatically be added back onto itineraries in 2022," she said.
"It should be noted that these travellers are fully vaccinated/negative PCR test or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 180 days with minimum risk of infection transmission which needs to be weighed against the significant financial impact on business and the risk to jobs."
She added: "Visitors to NI account for 70 per cent of visitor spend (over £1bn in 2019) and we urge the executive to work with the industry to find a practical workable approach to travel across the island of Ireland to save business for this year and future years."