November 15, 2023
CM Content Team
In a significant move aimed at boosting its tourism sector, Sri Lanka has announced the waiver of visa fees for visitors from India and six other countries. Effective October 24, the island nation's Cabinet approved a pilot project to issue free tourist visas to travellers from India, China, Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan until March 31, 2024. This initiative is part of Sri Lanka's broader strategy to revitalise its economy, which has faced considerable challenges in recent years, including last year's financial crash.
For several years, India has been Sri Lanka's most significant source market for tourism. Statistics reveal that this year alone, over 2,00,000 Indian tourists, constituting 20% of the total tourist arrivals, have visited Sri Lanka until September. Previously, Indian tourists were required to pay a $20 visa application fee online. The removal of this financial barrier is anticipated to spur a significant increase in tourist arrivals, especially from India.
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The move comes as Sri Lanka grapples with multiple setbacks that have dealt heavy blows to its tourism sector - a cornerstone of the country's economy. The industry has yet to recover from the devastating Easter Sunday terror attacks in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and the most recent economic crisis in 2022. According to a statement published by the Department of Government Information, the free visa initiative is part of ‘several new programmes’ designed to promote Sri Lankan tourism, one of the primary sources of foreign exchange earnings for the country, along with exports and worker remittances.
The pilot project for visa fee waivers signals the government's willingness to take innovative steps to recover from these challenges. By targeting tourists from countries with strong spending power and a historical interest in visiting Sri Lanka, the island nation is positioning itself to rebound more robustly in the coming years.
Overall, the visa fee waiver is more than just a financial incentive; it represents a strategic move in re-establishing Sri Lanka as a premier tourist destination and could play a crucial role in the nation's economic recovery.
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