Colombo, July 11: Unfortunate yet heinous, the Easter Sunday blasts had shook the very base of human mankind. Reviving out of the dastardly attack, the Sri Lankan government has now planned to renew the visa on arrival and free visa programme for citizens of 39 countries from August 1. But these 39 countries do not include India and China.
The island nation’s tourism industry accounts to five percent of the country’s GDP which suffered drastically after the blast. India in particular is one of the major markets of tourists for the nation; likewise this applies to China as well. Sri Lanka on April 25 suspended its plan to grant visas on arrival to citizens of 39 countries after the devastating suicide bombing on April 21 killing 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. SL Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga on Tuesday said that his ministry along with the Department of Immigration and Emigration are jointly working on a proposal to seek Cabinet approval to revive the free visa and visa on arrival programme.
He noted that the programme will be implemented as a trial for 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 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 marks in 2019.
Tourism revenues in Lanka increased to USD 362.7 million in November from USD 284 million in October 2018.