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Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons says he hopes the UK government won’t apply the proposals to Northern Ireland

Mandatory electronic travel permits for international visitors will impact hotels in Northern Ireland, the chief executive of Tourism Ireland has said.

Under UK government plans due to come into effect next year, non-British and non-Irish EU citizens will need to apply for electronic travel authorization before coming to the UK.

The move could mean that Irish tour operators would be liable for tourist paperwork if they visit NI.

Niall Gibbons criticized the plans.

The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) would require international tourists wishing to travel to Northern Ireland from the Republic, even if it is only a day trip, to seek pre-travel authorization .

The system would be similar in nature to the declaration that international passengers must complete before traveling to the United States or Canada.

Niall Gibbons told the BBC’s Inside Business that comments so far indicate some operators will pull out of the Northern Ireland market.

The chief executive of Tourism Ireland said he hoped the government would not apply the proposals to Northern Ireland or introduce a waiver for those traveling to Northern Ireland.

He thinks if introduced it could mean that some tour operators will consider having their guests stay overnight in the Republic of Ireland rather than bringing them to Northern Ireland.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster’s Inside Business programme, Mr Gibbons said comments from travel agents indicated some might avoid Belfast or Londonderry.

Image source, Getty Images/Charles McQuillan

Electronic Travel Authorization would require international tourists wishing to travel to Northern Ireland from the Republic, even for a day trip, to apply for pre-travel authorisation.

“At the end of the day, 70% of visitors from North America and mainland Europe who come to Northern Ireland do so via the Republic,” Mr Gibbons said.

“As this is a regulatory authority, it should not be expected that this will not be enforced.

“But certainly if you’re a tour operator or a travel agency bringing people in by coach, for example, you have obligations that you want to make sure are correct, so that’s serious.”

“The best outcome is that it doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland, but at a minimum you want some kind of visa waiver allowed for a number of days that would take care of a lot of business.”

‘Switching bed nights from Belfast to Dundalk’

‘Switch bed nights from Belfast to Dundalk’

Mr Gibbons said reactions so far indicate some operators will pull out of the Northern Ireland market. This may interest you : Why Cubans Migrate to the United States at Recording Speed.

Feedback we have from some operators indicates that they will be switching overnight stays from Belfast to Dundalk, Derry to Donegal and Enniskillen to Sligo. It will just be easier for them.”

Announcing ETA’s proposals last year, UK Immigration Secretary Kevin Foster said it would not be an “onerous” requirement.

He told MPs it would likely cost around £10, be valid for over a year and cover multiple trips.

Mr Foster said it was part of a wider UK effort to improve both border security and customer service for travellers.

You can hear more about this story on Inside Business on BBC Radio Ulster at 5.30pm or on BBC Sounds.

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