Visa waiver offers boost for Irish spas

Ireland's many hotel and destination spas could be in for a boost as the country's Government launches the first ever short-stay visa fee waiver initiative to encourage tourism.

The programme will allow people from Arab, Asian and eastern European countries living in the UK to visit Ireland without needing to apply for a separate visa. The initiative was launched by taoiseach Enda Kenny on July 1 and will run until October 31 2012 as a pilot, taking in the period of the London Olympics.

The Irish programme will enable tourists with a UK entry visa to visit Ireland for up to three months (or until their UK visa expires) with no need to obtain an Irish visa.

It covers visitors from 16 countries: India, Kazakhstan, China, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and the Ukraine.

Minister Varadkar said: "The visa waiver has a major role to play in boosting our tourism industry, stimulating job creation and bringing economic recovery. He added: "It will allow us to attract new visitors from fast-growing countries like India, China and the Gulf states. These countries are only just becoming aware of Ireland as a tourism destination."

(Image: Oceo Spa at Seafield Hotel, County Wexford)