The Cabinet of Ministers has approved a proposal from the Minister of Tourism to issue visa on arrival to tourists visiting Sri Lanka from 39 countries. Cabinet also decided to issue these visas on gratis basis as an incentive to attract tourists.
The countries included in the visa on arrival program are as follows: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand and Switzerland.
The program will be a pilot project effective for an initial period of six months commencing 1 May and ending 31 October. The program will be considered for continuation thereafter based on the progress achieved during the pilot period.
The Cabinet Memorandum in this regard was presented by Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga and received Cabinet approval on 19 March with the concurrence of the Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government, under whose purview the Department of Emigration and Immigration operates, and the Ministry of Finance.
“I‟m happy to note that the President, Prime Minister and all other Cabinet Ministers wholeheartedly welcomed this proposal,” said Amaratunga.
Amaratunga stated that the program was being introduced to boost arrivals during what is usually perceived as the „off season‟. “We will run this as a pilot project initially in order to increase arrivals during the off season. We estimate that this initiative will result in a 20% increase in arrivals. Depending on its success in the initial period we will decide whether to continue with it,” Amaratunga stated.
The Department of Immigration and Emigration is now in the process of making the necessary arrangements to implement the visa on arrival program from 1 May.
Amaratunga added that the travel and tourism industry stakeholders had welcomed the move as a step in the right direction. In addition to the visa relaxation Sri Lanka Tourism in association with airlines, hotels and other industry stakeholders will also launch a discounted country promotion package for tourists in the off season period.