As we come out of Covid, countries around the world are competing for tourists.
ravel is back, there is an opportunity to recoup losses and the island of Ireland is in a good position. It is considered a safe and welcoming place with a great nature.
So what clever new measures could lure visitors to choose us over other destinations after the pandemic?
What about a new US-style visa waiver for tourists traveling across the North-South border? An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) that non-Irish or non-British visitors would apply for and pay in advance?
That brainstorm is contained in Britain’s Nationalities and Borders Bill, new immigration legislation making its way through Westminster.
Under the ETA idea, while Irish and British citizens could cross the border freely and the common travel area would not be affected, non-Irish or non-British citizens wishing to travel from the Republic to Northern Ireland would need to obtain an ETA. Under Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit push, the system could be operational by 2025.
I spend a lot of time in this column to highlight good ideas. This is bad.
In tourism, one speaks of the “disturbing factor”, of inconveniences and costs that block the way for willing visitors. This is a perfect example.
Tourism Ireland markets North and South as an overseas destination. Almost a quarter of a century has passed since the Good Friday Agreement and much work has gone into removing travel barriers.
Belfast’s food scene, Derry’s festivals, game of Thrones and Titanic have opened up the north well beyond the Causeway Coast. Mobile roaming, cashless payments and the M1 have made the border almost invisible to tourists.
Today you can drive from Trinity College to Titanic Belfast in about two hours.
The ETA proposal aims to prevent abuse of the common travel area and fill a potential loophole in UK border security.
But indications are that passports are not being physically checked at the border. Tourism Northern Ireland says the Home Office has told it that “there will be no changes to border controls on the island of Ireland when the ETA scheme comes into force in 2025”.
So what’s the point? How are the ETAs verified?
What about visitors taking a one-way ferry journey via Carlingford Lough or Lough Swilly? What about non-Irish nationals wishing to cross the border or drive through Northern Ireland from Dublin to Donegal every day?
Most U.S. and European visitors to the North come through the republic — this will make cross-border itineraries more cumbersome for tour operators.
Minister Simon Coveney says it is “regrettable”. Others call it “unworkable”.
The good news is that the proposals are ongoing. Dialogue can still take place. But it feels like the ETA idea is gaining momentum, and traveling south to north might become more difficult for non-Irish or non-British citizens.
It’s a horribly timed piece of bureaucracy.
https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/ireland/i-love-good-ideas-heres-why-a-us-style-visa-waiver-for-northern-ireland-is-a-bad-one-41551176.html “I love good ideas. So a US-style visa waiver for Northern Ireland is bad.