|Visa Waiver Extended|
|Written by Frank Corr|
|Wednesday, 14 March 2012 08:32|
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD, has extended the short-stay Visa Waiver Programme for a further four years.
The move has been wlecomed by the Irish Hotels Federation.
Tim Fenn, Chief Executive, IHF stated that the extension underpins industry efforts to market Ireland in emerging economies and will be of significant benefit in attracting affluent holiday-makers from key markets, such as India and China.
He saiid that the programme is an important part of the sector’s short to medium term strategy for emerging markets and provides a significant tourism boost by eliminating the difficulty and expense associated with a separate Irish visa application for visitors already planning a trip to the UK. He says: “The scheme has opened the door for us to capitalise on the hundreds of thousands of visitors from emerging markets who holiday in the UK each year, making Ireland a very attractive place for visitors to include as part of their holiday.”
Mr Fenn said that the IHF will work closely with other industry bodies to maximise the potential of the scheme into 2013 and beyond: “Our focus will be on marketing the excellent world-class product we have to offer and highlighting the enormous range of scenic and cultural attractions in Ireland and exceptional value catering to all budgets.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina will be added to the existing list of 16 countries already covered by the Programme. As a further measure to encourage tourism, the fee for visas will be waived for long-term residents from the countries covered by the Programme who live in the Schengen area. This will be reviewed after six months.
The Minister stated that he was delighted that the Government had agreed to the extension of the Programme. "There has been unanimous welcome for this initiative from the tourism promotion bodies and the tourism industry. The initial indications of the impact of the Programme are very positive. It was originally intended that the review of the Programme would follow the London Olympics period but on strong representations from the tourism industry I brought forward the review which was completed in recent weeks. Today’s announcement will facilitate preparations for the 2013 tourist season during which I am confident the industry will maximise the potential of the Visa Waiver Programme", the Minister said.
Minister Shatter pointed out that the full year cost of the existing measures and the new proposals, in terms of lost visa fee revenue, amounts to over €1m approximately. However, the Minister also said, "Lost visa fee revenue will be more than made up for by the increased number of visitors to our shores from significant new markets." Minister Shatter added "This Programme, together with other initiatives such as the forthcoming Investor and Entrepreneur Scheme for migrants, demonstrates the Government’s commitment to innovative and imaginative approaches to promoting economic growth and recovery."