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Cabinet approval to extend free visa facility till 30 April

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  • Tourist arrivals up by 10-12% after introduction of free visa facility in August 2019
  • Free visa scheme applicable to 48 countries
  • Tourist arrivals in Jan. 2020 shown slight drop from Dec. 2019 figures

Cabinet on Wednesday approved the extension of the free visa scheme to nationals of 48 countries until 30 April as the tourism sector, which was picking up after the Easter terror attacks, takes another hit due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“With the introduction of the free visa scheme, we saw an increase of 10 to 12% in tourist arrivals after the Easter attacks but with the coronavirus onset, the sector is getting adversely affected once more and hence it is important to extend the facility for three more months,” Co-Cabinet Spokesman Minister Ramesh Pathirana said.

The proposal to extend the free visa facility was presented by Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga.

The visa free program was introduced by the last Government on 1 August 2019 for a period of six months. It will now be effective for three more months till 30 April, the Minister said.

The free visa facility is granted to nationals of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United States of America, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Switzerland, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Ukraine, Philippines, Russia and Iceland.

According to the Monthly Tourist Arrivals Reports compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) using information on tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy, there were 228,434 tourist arrivals in January, a 6% drop compared to the 244,239 tourists who arrived in January 2019.

It is still an increase from tourist arrivals between April and November last year which ranged from as low as 37,802 in May last year, the month after the Easter attacks, to 176,984 by November. However, the number of tourist arrivals in December 2019 rose to 241,663 with the annual arrival figures rounding up at 1,913,702. (CK)

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