The Government yesterday clarified that visa is still required for citizens of 48 countries to enter Sri Lanka, but the fee has been waived off to boost tourism post-Easter Sunday tragedy.
“It has been misconstrued that free visa means visa isn’t required to enter Sri Lanka. This is not correct. There is only a visa fee exemption, but all visitors have to obtain a visa,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development (SLTDA) Chairman Johanne Jayaratne told journalists.
“Only the fee has been waived off, and there is no exemption of the visa requirement to enter the country. It is still necessary for tourists to have visa prior to arrival,” added Immigration and Emigration Controller General Pasan Ratnayaka.
On 1 August, as one of the many efforts to revive the tourism industry post-21 April Easter Sunday terror attacks, 48 countries were exempted from the mandatory visa fee payment of $35 when entering Sri Lanka.
Ratnayaka said given the misconception, many tourists were coming to the country and queuing up at the immigration counters, expecting entry without a visa. He urged those travelling to apply for visas online prior to arrival.Ratnayake also noted that separate visa-on-arrival facility is also available for travellers, for which documentation then has to be completed at the airport.
Pointing out that there has been some discussion about the loss of revenue to the Immigration and Emigration Department, Jayaratne however said that increasing revenue derived from tourist spending through the free visa initiative outweighs the losses that would result from the waiver of visa fees.
“If you look at it holistically, a passenger spends around $25 to $35 for visa, and if you were to look at the spending rate, it is estimated to be around $173.80 per night into an average stay for about 11 nights. Thus, the income for the country would far exceed the losses that the immigration would look at over these six months. After six months, we will evaluate the financial perspective and see whether it is something we can carry forward,” Jayaratne added.