Northern Ireland’s largest tourism industry body, Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, said today that its members urgently require the NI Executive to look again at its guidance to ease Common Travel Area (CTA) restrictions.
On Thursday, the NI Executive said it was removing its ‘essential travel only’ advice for travellers coming into Northern Ireland from across the UK and Ireland but added a new tier of guidance which the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance said was “unmanageable, complicated and confusing” and would put off potential visitors from coming.
If approved, those visiting friends and family in Northern Ireland will be exempt from a requirement to self-isolate. However, they will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test in addition to further testing on days two and eight following arrival. All other visitors will be required to self-isolate upon arrival for 10 days.
Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance chief executive, Joanne Stuart, said it not only remained unclear how the controls would be managed and by whom, it would also shut down plans to promote Northern Ireland as a visitor destination for visitors in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
“What people desperately want after months of uncertainty is confidence and clarity and this latest updated guidance does nothing to provide any of that,” Joanne Stuart said. “It’s unmanageable, complicated and confusing.”
“Our tourism industry cannot solely rely on the domestic market or on visiting family and friends from the UK and Ireland to survive and we are deeply worried what the implications of this will mean for the crucial summer trading period ahead.
“While we welcome the planned reopening of indoor hospitality, we are disappointed and concerned that there still remains no focus on the restart of international travel and on the introduction of ‘green list’ countries and when we might expect this.”
Members of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance have requested urgent meetings with representatives from the NI Executive Office, Department for the Economy and Department of Health to press for change.
Tourism generated over £1bn in visitor spend in 2019, 70 percent of which was from inbound visitors. This spend supports multiple sectors of the economy, such as hospitality and retail, and thousands of livelihoods.
With its dominance of SMEs, strong regional presence, importance to wellbeing and ability to generate jobs, tourism has been recognised as critical to Northern Ireland’s economic recovery.
NITA, which includes air, sea and road operators, accommodation providers, visitor attractions, museums and tour guides among its members said the industry had already worked hard with consumers and partners to reschedule travel and holiday plans to 2021, implement stringent measures to be Covid-19 secure and provide packages and experiences tailored to home markets to maximise the main opportunity for 2021.
“What we need now is a clear approach and timeframe to the full reopening our tourism sector, including international travel, and we urge the NI Executive to review its latest guidance as a critical first step in safely welcoming visitors back to Northern Ireland”, said Joanne.