Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance

Government fails to exempt NI tourists from ETA

NITA Statement 9th March 2023

This morning (Thursday, 9th March) the Government laid legislation in Parliament detailing the proposed operation of its Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/electronic-travel-authorisation-eta).

Despite cross-party support from Northern Ireland MPs and evidence from the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance that Northern Ireland’s tourism industry would be significantly damaged, the Home Office has decided not to adapt the scheme to reflect the unique nature of the sector locally.

Dr. Joanne Stuart, CEO of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance (NITA) said:

“Despite extensive discussions between NITA and the Home Office, including cross-party support from Northern Ireland MPs, we are dismayed that the Government has refused to adapt the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme to reflect Northern Ireland’s unique position as the only part of the UK with a land border.

“With over 70% of our visitors arriving via Dublin it is clear that the bureaucracy and potential costs involved in obtaining an ETA will lead to overseas visitors dropping Northern Ireland from their travel plans. This puts 25% of all tourism spend (an estimated £250M) in Northern Ireland at risk.

“We will need time to scrutinise the detail of the legislation, but we are incredibly disappointed that the Government has discounted the evidence provided by the industry and has shown no flexibility to protect seamless travel across the island for most visitors. We believe that a short-term exemption for overseas visitors travelling from Dublin to Northern Ireland could have been delivered in line with the Government’s wider policy objectives.

“The tourism sector has significant potential to create jobs and wealth in communities across Northern Ireland. Today’s announcement, however, does nothing to support those opportunities and is contrary to the Government’s own Levelling-Up agenda. We will continue to make the case to have the legislation amended.’

ENDS