Sri Lanka Introduces Free Tourist Visas for Visitors from India and Six Other Countries
Sri Lanka Introduces Free Tourist Visas for Visitors from India and Six Other Countries

In a strategic move aimed at revitalizing its tourism sector, Sri Lanka has declared that tourists from India, the largest inbound group, will now be granted free tourist visas effective immediately, as announced by the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

This initiative comes in the wake of a Cabinet decision in October to extend free tourist visas to travelers from several nations, including India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. The primary objective is to rejuvenate the tourism industry of the debt-burdened island nation, which has struggled since the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.

The pilot program offering complimentary visas for the initial 30-day period will remain in effect until March 31, 2024, according to the official announcement. Upon arrival, travelers will be granted dual entry status, and the visa will allow for a maximum stay of 30 days in Sri Lanka.

India stands as Sri Lanka's foremost inbound tourism market traditionally. Recent statistics from October 2023 revealed that Indian arrivals surpassed 28,000, accounting for 26% of the total arrivals, with Russian tourists following closely behind with over 10,000 arrivals, marking the second-largest group. British tourists ranked third with over 8,000 arrivals.

The country's tourism industry faced a significant decline after the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, resulting in a slump in tourist arrivals. The bombings, which claimed 270 lives, including 11 Indians, and left over 500 injured, had a lasting impact on tourism.

Sri Lanka has been grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis, leading to severe shortages of essential commodities such as food, medicine, cooking gas, fuel, toilet paper, and even matches. To address its ailing economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed in March to provide a USD 3 billion bailout to Sri Lanka.

The introduction of free tourist visas to key nations including India is expected to be a significant step towards the island nation's economic recovery and a boost to its struggling tourism sector.
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