- Tourism Minister to submit Cabinet proposal within next two weeks
- Industry reiterates only fee is waived for nationals from 49 countries; prior application requirement remains
Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday confirmed that the Government is in the process of drafting a Cabinet proposal to extend the fee-free visa regime till 30 April.
The three-month gratis visa scheme will be extended on the instructions of Minister Ranatunga and the relevant Cabinet paper will be soon submitted to the Cabinet.
“We have just begun to draft the proposal and within the next two weeks I hope to submit it to the Cabinet for approval,” the Minister told the Daily FT.
He also pointed out that under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a new level of confidence has been established among domestic and foreign travellers. Following the Easter Sunday attacks, as a recovery stimulation, Sri Lanka opened up to 49 countries in the world for a period of six months from 1 August 2019. With the gratis visa scheme coming to an end this month, the Immigration and Emigration Department lobbied the Government to suspend the visa scheme, noting that there will be a loss of revenue for the department.
However, the tourism industry urged the on the continuation of the fee-free visa regime, as it has been helpful for the post-Easter Sunday setback and key for a more complete recovery, whilst any loss of revenue to Government is insignificant considering the net $ 4.4 billion it brings in as foreign exchange earnings.
The 49 countries whose citizens are eligible for fee-free visa are: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the UK, and the US.
Visitors from these countries however still require to apply for visa online and only the fee is waived off.
Post-Easter Sunday tragedy, tourist arrivals slumped by 70.8% to a record low of 37,802 in May 2019. The change in arrivals between 2018 and 2019 was 57% in June 2019, 46.9% in July 2019, 28.3 % in August 2019, 27.2% in September 2019, 22.5% in October 2019 and 9.5% in November 2019.