Labour MEP for Munster Phil Prendergast called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, and his counterpart in the UK Foreign Office, William Hague, to extend the Visa Waiver Programme to all tourists visiting London for the Olympics at the end of the month.
Speaking from Brussels, Ms. Prendergast said “We run the risk of missing a trick with the Olympics starting at the end of the month. The current programme only allows travellers from sixteen countries who enter the UK on a UK ‘C’ General Visa - a tourist visa - to travel to Ireland without needing to apply for another visa. This needs to be extended temporarily.
“Around 11,000,000 visitors are expected to travel to London specifically for the Olympics, of whom 1,000,000 will travel from abroad. These tourists are expected to spend GBP 2.1 billion over the course of the Olympics, not to mention the estimated GBP 32 billion in extra revenue earned from enhanced tourism in the 10 years after the Olympics. You simply couldn’t buy the exposure that Ireland could get from this Olympic Games.
“Many of the individuals travelling to the Games come from countries not currently covered by the Visa Waiver Programme which means it will be cumbersome for them to obtain a visa, and they will be less likely to visit. This will potentially cost the Irish tourism sector millions in lost revenue.
“What I want is a temporary extension of the Visa Waiver Programme. This doesn’t involve broad policy changes, or complicated legislation, so it is something which could be achieved in the tight time frame we have left until the games begin.
“This is a simple stroke of the pen action which will benefit the Irish tourism industry, and Irish jobs, so I don’t see why this cannot happen.”