The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., today announced that he has secured Government agreement for the extension of the Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme for a further period of four years. This initiative, introduced for the first time last year, was welcomed as a very positive step in encouraging visitors to Ireland.
The programme had originally been due to last until the end of October this year but on consideration of a review of the Programme, the Government agreed to extend its duration.
The Minister also announced the following changes to the Programme;
- 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.
This scheme is an integral part of the Government’s Jobs Initiative and is intended to promote tourism, particularly from emerging markets such as China, India and the Gulf Region. Under the Programme, tourists or business people who have lawfully entered the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a valid UK visa are able to travel on to Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa.
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."
12 March 2012
Note for Editors:
The Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme commenced on 1 July, 2011 and was scheduled to run on a pilot basis until the end of October, 2012 taking in the period of the London Olympics. The Programme is an integral part of the Government’s Jobs Initiative and is intended to promote tourism, particularly from emerging markets.
Under the Programme, tourists or business people who have lawfully entered the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a valid UK visa are able to travel on to Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa. They are allowed to stay in Ireland for up to 3 months or until their UK visa runs out, whichever is the shorter.
Nationals of sixteen countries were originally included in the programme. The countries involved are India, Kazakhstan, the Peoples’ Republic of China, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. Bosnia and Herzegovina has now been added to this list.
The selection of these countries was based, inter alia, on a combination of recommendations from the tourism industry of countries with potential for growth in tourism to Ireland and the success rate of applications for visas. As part of the initiative, nationals of these countries, who are long-term legal residents in the UK or the Schengen area, will have the cost of an Irish visa waived should they wish to visit Ireland. It is estimated that there are up to 1 million people in this category in the UK alone.
Schengen area includes: Austria; Belgium; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; Italy; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden and Switzerland.
While it is not possible to say exactly how many people have availed of the Programme, Tourism Ireland has submitted, as part of the Minister’s review, certain indicators of the impact of the Programme as follows:
- The number of tourist groups from China more than doubled from July to August 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.
- A new Oriental Global Study Tour Centre has successfully organised two groups of more than 60 Chinese students to the UK and Ireland to study English and to sightsee in August 2011.
- A number of new operator and travel agent itineraries have been created as a result of the introduction of the Programme including:
- 9 new tour operator itineraries from China
- 10 new tour operator itineraries from India
- 2 meetings and incentives groups included Ireland in their itineraries
- 5 new tour operator itineraries from the Gulf regio
- It is anticipated that these programmes will increase in 2012
- Media articles generated by the Programme in the target markets of China, India and the Gulf States amounted to the equivalent of over €0.6 million worth of advertising.
- There was on-line communication of the Programme to over 800,000 customers and trade through discoverireland.com, social media, Shamrock Agents and trade eZines.
The Minister will explore ways of capturing data on the exact numbers using the Programme to better assess its impact.