THE tourism industry is expected to see an increase in the number of Chinese visitors to Ireland next year following the relaxing of visa rules by the UK government.
From next year, new rules will apply to the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK - under which tourists and business visitors with either an Irish or UK visa will be able to freely travel between the two jurisdictions.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter announced the development of reciprocal Common Travel Area visa arrangements after the UK signalled it will relax rules governing how it grants visas to Chinese nationals.
He said the move has the potential to attracts tens of thousands of extra visitors to Ireland every year.
“It is anticipated that the changes the UK is making to their visa processes will encourage more Chinese visitors to come here on business or as tourists,” said Mr Shatter.
“Increased visitors to the UK would be of little benefit to Ireland but for the existence of the Common Travel Area which we share with the UK.
“My department in partnership with the UK Home Office is developing reciprocal Common Travel Area visa arrangements which it is planned to commence in 2014. Under these new arrangements all tourists, business and other legitimate visitors, will be able to travel to the Common Travel Area on either an Irish or UK visa and subsequently to travel freely between the two jurisdictions,” he added.
Under the Irish Visa Waiver Programme, the nationals of 17 countries - including China - who had a visa to visit the UK can also travel to Ireland without having to apply for a separate Irish visa.
Figures from Tourism Ireland show that since the introduction of the waiver programme, the number of trips to Ireland by residents of these countries has increased by more than 30pc with an additional 6,000 Chinese nationals travelling to Ireland.