Tough visa requirements for certain nationalities visiting Ireland are strangling the tourist industry, it was claimed today.
The Coach Tourism and Transport Council, representing coach operators, said travellers from countries including Russia, China and India are not being encouraged to visit because of strict entry rules.
"Effectively, we tell them to go away, and spend their money in some other country," said CTTC chief Gerry Mullins.
Mr Mullins pointed to a list of rules on the Irish Embassy in China website for visa applications to visit Ireland.
Among the requirements are documentary proof going back six months showing suitable funds to cover a visit, a letter from your employer or college stating you intend returning, and a letter from your host.
"Can you imagine booking a room in a Dublin hotel, and then asking the receptionist if the hotel would forward a letter saying they will support you during your visit?", Mr Mullins asked.
Mr Mullins questioned why visitors from such countries would visit Ireland when faced with tough entry requirements.
Nationalities of 88 countries do not need a visa to travel to Ireland.
A Failte Ireland review last month found the vast majority of tourism operators believe the worst is over after the beleaguered sector suffered one of its toughest years.
Almost two-thirds of businesses dependent on holidaymakers feel 2010 will be on a par or better than last year.
Revenue dropped 17pc last year to its lowest level since 2004, while the number of overseas visitors plummeted 12pc.
Failte Ireland said it hopes 2010 will mark a turning point and is unveiling new strategies to encourage growth, including giving visiting pensioners rail discounts and spend money on boosting tourism attractions.