Ireland: a fascinating land of myths and legends capturi ng imagination of one and all

Ireland: a fascinating land of myths and legends capturi ng imagination of one and all

Ireland is a fascinating country rich of picturesque landscapes, traditional culture, historical heritage, unspoiled green countryside and spectacular coastline. The country is a land of myths and legends and home to many alluring UNESCO world heritage sites. In an exclusive interview with TnH, His Excellency, Mr. Brian McElduff, Irish Ambassador to India talks about the uniqueness and richness of Ireland as a tourist destination, and why increasing number of Indians are visiting the country. He also explains Irish visa process. Excerpts:

 

Q. How would you describe Ireland as a tourist destination for Indians?

Indians appreciate our unspoilt green countryside and dramatic coastline as well as our traditional culture, buzzing urban hubs and festivals. Ireland is a land of myths and legends, which captures the imagination of children and adults alike. The island is also home to several UNESCO world heritage sites such as the Cliffs of Moher, Brú na Bóinne and the Skellig Islands.

In recent times, several well-known movies and television shows such as Star Wars and the Game of Thrones have been filmed in Ireland and have created a curiosity among Indian travellers to visit the places where they were filmed. The island has also been discovered by Bollywood – films such as ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ partly set in Dublin, have definitely helped boost our profile in India.

Incidentally Dublin, which is my native city, is a place which should be on the itinerary of anyone with an interest in literature. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw were just three of its great writers. While not a near destination, our historic connections make Ireland quite a familiar place for Indians. We speak English and also drive on the left, which makes motoring holidays much less of a challenge!

Indian visitors will be surprised at how many links we have. I am particularly fond of Ballynahinch Castle near the western coast, which is not only a charming place to stay (with a worldclass fishery) but also the former home of Ranji, “the Prince of Cricketers”. He lived in Ballynahinch in the 1920s and the castle is filled with memorabilia from his time.

Nowadays we have a large Indian community and Indian food is readily available although I would encourage Indian visitors to try Irish cuisine, especially seafood, and to enjoy our renowned pub culture (which we have managed to export worldwide). The Irish whiskey business is booming and Indian visitors will, I hope, be converted to the merits of Irish whiskey which is the original whiskey!

Q. How are the Indian tourist arrivals to Ireland growing?

Over the last five years, we have seen a year-on-year increase of over 25% in Indian visitor arrival numbers to the island of Ireland. Factors in our favour include increased access to Ireland, particularly the increased air services by Etihad and Emirates via the Middle East, as well as by the British Irish Visa Scheme, which makes it easier for tourists from India who are visiting Britain to also visit Ireland, without the cost or bother of applying for a separate visa. We believe that the number of Indian visitors to Ireland is only set to increase over the coming years.

Q. Kindly tell us about the Irish visa process. How simple is it?

You will need a valid passport to enter the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Indian national visitors to Republic of Ireland require an Irish visa. Indian national visitors to Northern Ireland require a UK visa. The new British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) allows a short stay applicant from India to travel to and around Ireland is a fascinating country rich of picturesque landscapes, traditional culture, historical heritage, unspoiled green countryside and spectacular coastline. The country is a land of myths and legends and home to many alluring UNESCO world heritage sites. In an exclusive interview with TnH, His Excellency, Mr. Brian McElduff, Irish Ambassador to India talks about the uniqueness and richness of Ireland as a tourist destination, and why increasing number of Indians are visiting the country. He also explains Irish visa process. Excerpts: Ireland: a fascinating land of myths and legends capturi ng imagination of one and all Q Q “ Indians appreciate our unspoilt green countryside and dramatic coastline as well as our traditional culture, buzzing urban hubs and festivals. Ireland is a land of myths and legends, which captures the imagination of children and adults alike. Brian McElduff Ambassador of the Republic of the Ireland to India Q Diplomat Corner vBY Prem Kumar March 2017–Final_Layout 1 3/2/2017 9:14 PM Page 38 TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY |MARCH 2017 39 interVieW both the UK and Ireland with only one visa. Whether this visa is a UK visa or an Irish visa is dependent on the country you visit first. Republic of Ireland Visa Procedures Going to Ireland has never been easier. An online visa application facility for Ireland is available to Indian visitors. You can apply online in the visa section of the INIS (Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service) website. Applicants must then submit their passports and documentation to the VFS Visa Application Centres in 13 cities across India. Visas for Northern Ireland Indian visitors to Northern Ireland require a UK visa. Applicants must submit their passports and documentation to any VFS office in India to apply for their UK visa.

Q. How is the connectivity between these two countries?

While there are no direct flights from India to the island of Ireland, connectivity to Dublin and Belfast from India is excellent with Europe, Great Britain and the Middle East being the main air access hubs. British Airways, Jet Airways, Virgin and Air India have direct flights to Great Britain from India. One-stop connections are also convenient to Dublin and are serviced by multiple European carriers such as Lufthansa, Swiss, Air France and KLM. Turkish Airlines has a daily connection with a stop-over at Istanbul, while Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways have double daily flights with stop-overs at Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively. Recently, Qatar Airways has also announced that it will offer daily non-stop flights between Doha and Dublin, commencing 12 June 2017.

Q. What is your plan and strategy to promote Ireland in India?

In 2017 and beyond, our tourist agency Tourism Ireland will continue to raise awareness of the British Irish Visa Scheme, informing Indian travellers that they can now visit the UK and Ireland on a single visa. The products being promoted in 2017 include the Wild Atlantic Way, the Causeway Coastal Route, Star Wars and Game of Thrones destinations as well as events and festivals such as the St Patrick’s Festival. Our tourist agency will focus on tapping the Culturally Curious segment of Indian travellers. Tourism Ireland has been consistently working with the Indian travel trade through sales calls, online and offline training programmes and seminars. In 2017, they will conduct road shows in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. Their online training programme, Ireland Specialists, is constantly updated with new tourism products and offerings from Ireland.

Q. How affordable is Ireland for tourists?

Ireland is comparable to any destination in Europe. There are budget accommodation options including a network of hostels and also luxury options including some very famous hotels such as impressive Ashford Castle (former home of the Guinness family of brewing fame) and the elegant Ballyfin House which has won many awards. Our huge range of restaurants include Michelin-starred destinations but many prefer to dine more affordably in the convivial atmosphere of one of our many pubs.

Q. What is special about Ireland as a tourist destination?

For being such a small country, Ireland has a remarkable presence in the world. This is partly due to our very extensive diaspora but we owe much to our appealing traditional culture and strong sense of history. Our unique identity can be witnessed everywhere in Ireland, in its buzzing cities – Dublin, Belfast and Galway – quirky towns and villages and friendly locals. We have managed to become a modern, prosperous and outward-looking country without losing those qualities which make us distinctive. Ireland will reward any traveller with an open and curious mind.

 

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