With the UK preparing to leave the European Union later this month, confusion reigns when it comes to what this might mean for the hospitality sector.
While the long-term ramifications remain to be seen, one destination is doing its best to get ahead of the curve – Ireland.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, has been quick to stress that Brexit will have no impact on travel to the island, with British travellers not even needing a passport.
This is down to the Common Travel Area.
Since 1923, the agreement has allowed citizens of Great Britain and Ireland to freely travel between the two islands without restrictions.
There is no need for a visa and guests only need to show photo ID, such as a driving licence, on arrival in their destination country.
This will not change as the UK realigns with the European Union.
Gibbons explains to Breaking Travel News: “I think we have come a long way; the Brexit debate has been going on now for three and a half years.
“We have had a taskforce in place at Tourism Ireland, with senior members of the UK and Irish tourism industries, throughout this time, so we have always been in a good position to deal with this.
“But as we move into 2020, there is an element of certainty now – the UK will leave the EU at the end of January, with an 11-month transition period after that.
“From an Irish perspective, what is unique is that we have the Common Travel Area, a deal that was renewed by a memorandum of understanding between the two governments last year.
“These arrangements will remain in place, whatever happens in the wider dialogue this year.”
However, as with everything involving Brexit, there is a great deal of uncertainty involved.
A new survey by Tourism Ireland and polling company YouGov, recently revealed that half of Brits are unaware of the Common Travel Area.
Tourism Ireland has been working to get the message out.
Gibbons adds: “There is a great deal of commonality, similarity between the UK and Ireland, people tend to view a trip as an extension of the domestic market.
“Over the course of a lifetime, a British guest tends to visit Ireland four times, and we are working to grow that repeat business and develop the market further.”
The Common Travel Area agreement is a relief given that, out of those who are planning a short break in 2020, over half of those questioned by YouGov would be interested in going to Ireland.
The majority cited scenery as a reason for visiting, closely followed by the culture on offer and “the craic”.
In 2018 there were over 4.7 million visitors to the island of Ireland from the UK, accounting for over 40 per cent of the total number of guests.
There are currently 1,600 flights per week from 23 British airports to the island of Ireland, in addition to ferry services with Irish Ferries and Stena Line.
In 2020, there are many more reasons to visit Ireland, including Galway being the European Capital of Culture 2020; the hosting of several European Championship football matches; new Game of Thrones tours; and a focus on food with the Taste the Island festival.
Gibbons concludes: “We are in a good position to capitalise on these events, and with sterling getting stronger against the euro again, this is a good time for us to convert interest into actual visits.
“Galway, in particular, will be a hub for this year, an epicentre of artistic endeavour, with a huge calendar of events set to launch on February 8th.
“Finally, on the culinary side, there has been a renaissance in recent years; Ireland tends to overdeliver in terms of food and that will be a major focus for us this year.”
Find out more about visiting Ireland on the official website.