Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster, has welcomed the launch of a new British-Irish Visa scheme.
The scheme, which was launched in London, enables visitors from China and India to travel freely between Ireland and the United Kingdom using the same travel documents.
Speaking today Arlene Foster said: “We are competing on a global scale when promoting Northern Ireland. The British-Irish Visa Scheme will make it easier for Chinese and Indian visitors to come to Northern Ireland through the Republic of Ireland as well as through Great Britain. The scheme is the result of a high level of collaboration on work to strengthen the common travel area and move to better, common standards for border and visa issuance and was a commitment within the Economic Pact. By cutting down on the level of bureaucracy and restrictions people face we are ensuring a visit to Northern Ireland is more attractive than ever.
“Since becoming Minister I have visited both China and India promoting Northern Ireland. We also have avibrant and long-established Indian and Chinese community here. A joint visa scheme will help with ease of travel and Tourism Ireland and VisitBritain will continue to work closely to ensure that the benefits of the Chinese and Indian markets are maximised. The joint visa scheme will come into effect in time for bookings for the 2015 summer season, making it easier for both business and tourist visitors to include a visit to Northern Ireland on their itinerary.”
Also welcoming the British-Irish Visa Scheme, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “The introduction of the British-Irish Visa Scheme is really good news, making it easier than ever before for visitors from China and India to visit Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland. It is a significant step in helping us to grow visitor numbers from these markets – whether those visitors wish to travel here for sightseeing, golf or as business tourists.
“For the island of Ireland, the majority of our overseas visitors come from Great Britain, North America and Mainland Europe, and while this will continue, it is important that we expand our focus beyond these markets and look to the long-term opportunities presented by new tourism markets, particularly China and India, which we believe will play an increasingly important role for travel and tourism. Given that visitors from these markets are travelling a considerable distance, and often want to include more than one destination on their itinerary, it makes sense to make it as easy as possible for them to visit both Ireland and the UK on a single visa. We will be working closely with our colleagues in VisitBritain, to leverage the benefits of the new scheme in both India and China.”