- Minister mulls to include SAARC countries, China as they include top source markets
- Plans underway to set up permanent system to issue visa on-arrival at BIA
By Charumini de Silva
Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga yesterday said work is underway to implement on-arrival visa, free-of-charge for multiple countries from 1 May, to boost tourist arrivals during lean months.
“We will start granting a six-month free visa period from 1 May for selected countries during our lean period to boost tourist arrivals,” the Minister told the Daily FT.
The Cabinet of Ministers in February approved the proposal presented by Minister Amaratunga to grant a six-month free visa period from 1 April for selected countries.
According to that, visa-free entry to Sri Lanka will be granted to tourists from Thailand, the UK, Australia, South Korea, Canada, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and countries of the EU.
In addition to those countries, the Minister hopes to extend the facility to all SAARC countries as well as to China, which includes top source markets for Sri Lanka.
Noting that it would be initially implemented for a trial period of six months and depending on the success rate, they will further extend the facility with more added features to make Sri Lanka an attractive destination for tourists.
“As the next step of this program, we are planning on setting up a permanent system at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) to issue visa on-arrival, like in many other countries. We believe this would be a major breakthrough in attracting more visitors from this year,” he added.
He said that the technicalities and systems were already being discussed and implemented by the Immigration and Emigration Department.
Considering major MICE tourism events, policy decisions to ease entry to the country and Sri Lanka being ranked top destination to travel in 2019 by Lonely Planet, the Minister expressed confidence in attracting over three million tourist arrivals by the end of this year.