Colombo: Months after the Easter Sunday bombings, the Sri Lankan government thinks of reviving the visa on arrival and free visa programme for citizens of 39 countries, excluding India and China, from August 1. Lanka had on April 25 suspended its plans to grant visas on arrival to citizens of 39 countries after the devastating suicide bombings on April 21 that killed 258 people. The visa on arrival pilot programme was part of a larger initiative to increase tourist arrivals to the country during the six month off-season period from May to October.
Sri Lanka's tourism industry, which accounts for around five per cent of the country's GDP, is likely to suffer due to the blasts, according to industry analysts. Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said that his ministry along with the Department of Immigration and Emigration are jointly working to put forth the proposal before the Cabinet seeking approval to revive the free visa and visa on arrival programme.
He noted that the programme will be implemented as a trial for a period of six months, excluding the country's top source markets of India and China. However, he said that the programme could be extended to these two counties as well in the future based on the success of the trial run. The minister emphasised that a monitoring system would be put in place to prevent undesirable people entering the country. The countries that will be included in the visa on arrival programme include Austria, the UK, the US, Japan, Australia and Canada, the report said.
The island nation received 7,40,600 foreign tourists in the first three months of 2019. Around 450,000 Indians visited Sri Lanka last year and the island nation was expecting the total Indian tourist arrivals to cross one million mark in 2019. Tourism revenues in Lanka increased to USD 362.7 million in November from USD 284 million in October 2018, according to reports.