Northern Ireland news

MPs hear how British government immigration scheme could cost the north's tourism sector up to £160 million

British government plans to impose controls on international travellers could cost the region's tourism sector up to £160m

BRITISH government plans to impose controls on international travellers crossing from the Republic into the north could cost the region's tourism sector up to £160 million, MPs have heard.

The proposal contained in the Tories' Nationalities and Borders Bill would require EU and non-EU citizens who are not Irish to apply online for pre-travel clearance – known as Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) – before entering the UK.

The Dublin government has already voiced serious concerns over the plans that would impact on overseas tourists who arrive in the south but hope to travel north during their stay, even for a day visit.

Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday heard about the potential impact from representatives of the north's tourist sector, who highlighted how a majority of international travellers who visit the north arrive via Dublin.

NI Tourism Alliance's Joanne Stuart said there had been "no consultation" with the industry and she dubbed the scheme "unworkable and completely impractical".

She said visitors wanted "hassle-free travel" and she also voiced concern about how the new rules would impact cross-border workers such as coach drivers.

"A not-insignificant amount of these are non-Irish EU nationals, and under these proposals they too would need a visa for every crossing – how can we justify this?" Ms Stuart said.

Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillan said he was concerned tour operators would cut the north out of their itineraries.

"If ambiguity exists, if explanation is required it will make it much easier for that agent to say, 'I don't need to be bothered with this hassle, it's much easier for me to sell a trip to Cork or Galway or Kerry'," he said.

“We reckon that about £160m of visitor spend is at risk," he said.

"About half a million visitors we think this could impact on."

British Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said the scheme would begin operating in 2025 and would cost around £10, providing visitors with unhindered travel for a year.

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