In a bid to boost tourism, the Government yesterday announced that the visa-on-arrival scheme for citizens of 39 countries will be implemented from 1 August, after the move, which was to be effective from 1 May, was suspended soon after the Easter Sunday attacks.
“Earlier we had the Cabinet approval for a number of countries other than India and China. Due to the Easter Sunday terror attacks, we had to temporary suspend it until the country bounced back to normal.
Yesterday (Monday) I had a chat with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and he said to prepare a Cabinet paper to revive the previously suspended Cabinet paper,” Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga told journalists.
However, this time around, the Minister said the Government would introduce a tracking system to ensure that no “undesirable people” would enter the country.
“There were few aspects that they are concerned in implementing the free visa-on-arrival. We have to see whether there are undesirable people who come into the country and make use of this opportunity. Therefore, whilst revival of previous Cabinet paper is being done, we have to find ways and means on how to track those passengers who are coming to Sri Lanka. We are trying to develop a separate platform in order to ensure that no unwanted people make use of this opportunity and create problems in Sri Lanka,” he added.
Amaratunga said the revival Cabinet paper will be drafted soon as a joint Cabinet paper by the Ministry of Tourism Development and Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs.
When asked why the major tourism source markets of India and China were not included in the list of countries eligible for free visa-on-arrival, the Minister said that the majority of income was derived from these two countries, and they are now doing this as a trial project for six months.
“We want see whether it will beneficial or whether we will lose revenue. We will wait and see. If it goes well, we will extend it to China and India as well,” he added.
The countries included in the visa-on-arrival scheme are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia,
Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary,
Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania,
Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Japan,
Australia, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand and Switzerland.