TOURISTS from China, India, Brazil and other far-flung destinations will soon be able to travel to Ireland using a British visa – under a new arrangement which is being ironed out between the Irish and British governments.
Under the deal, a common travel area across Ireland and Britain will be set up for tourists from outside the EU. The new scheme, which is expected to kick off this summer, will allow tourists and business visitors from outside the EU to travel freely between Ireland and Britain – using only one visa.
This arrangement will be better than the existing visa-waiver programme, which allows tourists from 16 countries outside the EU to visit Ireland on British visas. The current programme is due to expire in October 2016. However, the new common travel area will be permanent and will replace the existing scheme. Furthermore, tourists and business visitors from any country outside the EU will be able to visit Ireland through the common travel area, unlike the current visa-waiver programme, which is restricted to 16 countries.
Brazilian tourists, for example, cannot currently travel to Ireland on a British visa – but they will be able to do so once the scheme is rolled out.
A spokesman for the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, said that "work is ongoing" between the Department of Justice and the British Home Office "on the development of reciprocal short-stay common travel area visa arrangements which would allow tourists and business visitors to travel to the common travel area, with first arrival in either jurisdiction, and thereafter to travel freely between Ireland and Britain".
Chinese and Indian tourists will be amongst the first to travel under the new scheme.
"It is planned for the worldwide rollout of these arrangements to commence in mid-2014 with China, as the priority location for Ireland, to be the first country to be covered by the reciprocal arrangements," said a spokesman for the Department of Justice. "India is also a priority for Ireland for inclusion in the early phases of rollout."
Although the number of tourists travelling to Ireland from China and India is small, the market is growing.
"Chinese tourists tend to spend more than most other tourists – and they also stay here for longer," said Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland. "They are into luxury branded goods – those goods can be bought here for a third the price you'll pay in China. India is another important market for us – it has a population of 1.2bn and they have a rapidly growing middle-class."
The Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Leo Varadkar, has been calling for a new scheme to entice more visitors to Ireland for about three years.