Tourism chiefs lobby for smooth introduction of EU Entry-Exit System

Tourism bosses from Kent have called for the smooth implementation of the EU’s new Entry-Exit System and the “urgent” return of Eurostar to Ashford and Ebbsfleet.

They made their pleas during a reception at the House of Commons on Tuesday night (May 21), organised by tourist board Visit Kent and hosted by Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins.

Rail services linking the UK to Europe have not stopped at Ashford or Ebbsfleet since March 2020.

Research by Kent County Council revealed at the reception suggests that if international rail services were not reinstated in the county until 2040, the cost to the Kent economy could be as much as £75 million, 30,000 jobs would be affected and an estimated £16.5 million per year spent on unnecessary travel by residents and visitors.

The transport and tourism chiefs also called for regulatory and financial support for a “substantial” shoreside clean power supply to support the decarbonisation of ferry travel on the Dover route.

Deirdre Wells, chief executive of Visit Kent, said: “I urge the current and future government to work with Eurostar and explore what options are feasible to provide greater resilience in our transport system by using the facilities at Ashford and Ebbsfleet.

“We are proud of the role that Kent plays as a leading UK gateway. Investing in a world-class port, road and rail network is critical if we are to continue to grow prosperity in the Garden of England.”

Derek Murphy, cabinet member for economic development at Kent County Council, added: “We are working with Visit Kent on our shared concern about the loss of international rail services. It is important for Kent’s economy that we see this connectivity return.”

Doug Bannister, chief executive of The Port of Dover, added: “We have some critical issues to overcome, not least the EU Entry-Exit System in the short term and climate change.

“But with the right collaboration between industry and government we can ensure we have the tools to deliver the smartest, most seamless and sustainable travel long into the future, supporting the economy of Kent and the nation as a whole.”

The group also lobbied for the digitisation of travel systems in the county to improve traffic flow.

John Keefe, chief corporate and public affairs officer at Eurotunnel parent Getlink Group, said: “Eurotunnel will ensure that, even as borders become more complex, travel into and out of the county will continue to be easy and fast moving.

“Major investments in border technology mean that traffic will flow through our terminals smoothly and efficiently, without additional queuing time. Smart borders mean smooth travel and open roads for everyone.”

The reception came after a House of Lords committee warned of “major travel disruption unless the government acts quickly” due to the rollout of the UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme alongside the EU’s imminent launch of an Entry/Exit System (EES) and Electronic Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

More: Lords committee warns of ‘major disruption’ due to new border systems

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