According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority’s first monthly report since the terror attacks, Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals declined 7.5% in April 2019 compared to the same period last year.
By Seema Wadhwa
In a bid to revive its flagging tourism post the Easter-day bombings, Sri Lanka has announced free visa on arrival for tourists from India and China. This scheme will come into force from 1st August 2019. The country’s former plan to grant visas on arrival for citizens of 39 countries was suspended due to the bombings. Three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo were bombed on 21 st April, killing 258 people, causing a setback. Originally the scheme was to come in force 1st May onwards, however, the security reasons post the traumatic incident put the plan on hold. The visas 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. The visa on arrival scheme has also be re-launched for the 39 suspended countries. It already allowed tourists from Thailand, the European Union, the UK, the US, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Cambodia.
Commenting on the scheme, Chinthaka Weerasinghe, Manager Northern India SriLankan Airlines said, “We are expecting an increase in the number of tourist arrivals from India and from other markets as well. Especially, after the April Easter attack, we had to take a lot of steps to boost our tourism, as a National Carrier we are excited about this new change.”
According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority’s first monthly report since the terror attacks, Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals declined 7.5% in April 2019 compared to the same period last year. The nation witnessed 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.
The tourism industry is expecting a full recovery in three to four months. Kishu Gomes, chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said that the recovery is very good. He further added, “In the last 5-10 days we have exceeded 4,500 tourist arrivals a day on average.”
In the immediate future, there will be vigorous tourist promotion campaigns by the government, Gomes said. While there’s not much information regarding any additional requirements or documentation for free visa on arrival for Indian tourists, a general Sri Lankan tourist e-visa application (ETA- Electronic Travel Authorization) requires an Indian passport holder to submit a digital photo, a passport with at least 6 months validity, proof of valid round-trip ticket showing the port of entry into Sri Lanka, proof of funds to cover their expenses during their stay in Sri Lanka. The maximum stay duration for a tourist visa is 30 days.
(The author is a Mumbai-based travel writer.)