The Sri Lankan Cabinet has greenlit the provision of free visas to tourists from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. This initiative, as announced by Sri Lanka‘s Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry, will function as a pilot project effective immediately and will run through March 31, 2024.
Minister Sabry highlighted on social media, “Immediate commencement of the pilot project granting free visas till 31 March to seven countries.”
Earlier this year, Ali Sabry emphasized the paramount importance of India in Sri Lanka’s foreign relations strategy. Visitors from the aforementioned countries can now enter Sri Lanka without incurring visa fees. Historically, India has been the leading source of tourists to Sri Lanka. In the data from September, Indian tourists topped the chart with over 30,000 arrivals, constituting 26% of the total. Tourists from China made up the second-largest group, numbering over 8,000.
Tourism in Sri Lanka took a hit after the devastating Easter Sunday bombings in 2019, which claimed 270 lives, including 11 Indians, and injured more than 500 people.
Facing significant economic hardships since its independence from Britain in 1948, Sri Lanka is currently navigating a political crisis with widespread demonstrations demanding President Rajapaksa’s step-down. This economic downturn has caused acute shortages of essentials like food, medicine, fuel, toilet paper, and even matches, leading to Sri Lankans waiting in lengthy lines for hours to buy necessities, especially fuel and cooking gas.
In a recent development, The Daily Mirror reported that the Ministry of Tourism had proposed offering free tourist visas to visitors from specific countries during a preceding Cabinet session, aiming to boost tourism.
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