Sri Lanka offers free tourist visas to boost economy amid challengestext_fields
Colombo: The Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo announced the immediate implementation of free tourist visas for Indian travellers, aiming to invigorate the tourism sector in Sri Lanka.
The initiative, aligned with a Cabinet decision from October, extends to tourists from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand.
This step comes in the wake of efforts to revitalise Sri Lanka's tourism industry, which faced a decline following the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.
The newly introduced pilot project grants travellers from the specified nations a free visa for the initial 30 days, effective until March 31, 2024. Upon arrival, tourists will receive dual-entry status, allowing them a 30-day stay within the island nation.
India stands as Sri Lanka's predominant inbound tourism market. October 2023 recorded over 28,000 arrivals from India, constituting 26% of the total, followed by Russian tourists with over 10,000 arrivals as the second-largest group. British tourists ranked third with over 8,000 arrivals.
The tourism industry in Sri Lanka witnessed a decline since the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, which resulted in 270 casualties, including 11 Indians, and left over 500 injured.
Sri Lanka grapples with severe economic challenges, leading to shortages of essential items such as food, medicine, cooking gas, fuel, toilet paper, and even matches. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in earlier this year, approving a USD 3 billion bailout to help the country address its economic crisis.