In a bid to promote tourism in the country, from next month, Sri Lanka will offer free visa on arrival in the country starting from August 1.
The news was announced by the Tourism Ministry of Sri Lanka recently where they said that they will provide the visa on arrival facility to the tourists, including travelers from India. Moreover, in the new scheme, Sri Lanka has added 10 additional countries to the list that were previously excluded from the 39-country scheme which were provided free visas.
In the visa-on-arrival scheme, the countries that are now included are China, India, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Philippines, Russia and England.
The visa scheme was originally introduced in the country to increase the off-season tourism during the period from May to October. But after the terrorist attacks in Colombo, the tourism in the country dipped drastically. So this new rule will help boost tourism once again.
Why is that so?
Islamist militants on April 21 bombed churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing more than 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals. Moreover, several countries then issued travel advisories, undermining the crucial tourism industry. Foreign visitor arrivals in May fell 70.8 percent, the lowest since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war a decade ago.
Notably, a government document seen by Reuters showed the cabinet had agreed to scrap tourist visas, which typically cost $20 to $40 and are applied for online or at Sri Lankan embassies and consulates. Visa-free entry will be available to 48 nations, including China, India, and the United Kingdom
“The offer will remain for six months and the government will assess the loss of revenue from visas after six months,” an official at the Tourism Development Ministry told Reuters.
However, Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga confirmed the measure to Reuters. He added that he expects the move to boost arrivals but declined to provide details. The ministry said it did not have an estimate of its earnings from visa payments.
Furthermore, tourism was Sri Lanka’s third largest and fastest growing source of foreign currency last year, after private remittances and textile and garment exports, accounting for almost $4.4 billion or 4.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2018. Notably, tourist traffic for the first half of the year was down by 13.4 percent.
The government will officially announce the offer at 0430 GMT on Wednesday, the Tourism Development Ministry official added. In brief, nationals from Thailand, European Union nations, the United States, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Switzerland, Cambodia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Russia are among the 48 nations included in the measure. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; editing by Alexandra Ulmer, Larry King)
Visa for Indians
India is one of the biggest contributors to the tourism market in Sri Lanka, with over 18% of all tourist arrivals from the country. However, India was not even included in the original 39 free visa on arrival country list.
Earlier, Indians had to pay almost Rs 2,400 on visa fee on arrival in Sri Lanka, with the introduction of India in the list; tourist can save on the money.