Indian tourists to Lanka may be exempted from visa

Sri Lanka is studying the possibilities of granting visa free entry to visitors from countries such as India and China.

Sri Lanka’s tourism minister John Amaratunga told news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) that prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a task force to explore the possibility of granting visa free entry to visitors from certain tourist friendly nations in a bid to boost arrivals.

Amaratunga said visitors from some European and West Asian nations could also benefit from it and the proposal may be implemented in the months of October to November and March to April.

Sri Lanka is a popular tourism destination in Asia, and a majority of tourists visiting the island nation are from India. Sri Lanka received around 3.8 lakh tourist arrivals from India in 2017, and the country’s target in 2018 is 440,000 Indians.

“India continues to be our top source market,” Sutheash Balasubramaniam, managing director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau told Economic Times. “We believe that the potential of the Indian travel market is yet to realise in terms of attracting longer stay and higher spending travellers.”

“It is our fervent hope to make Sri Lanka the most preferred destination in Asia for Indian travellers. Sri Lanka offers travellers an array of diverse product offerings and experience spread across the small island and caters to all ages.”

According to a survey conducted by Sri Lanka Tourism, 63 per cent of Indians opt for sightseeing excursions and 49 per cent go for shopping.  Around 37.01 per cent Indian travelers prefer to visit historical sites in Sri Lanka and wildlife is of interest to 21 per cent of those visiting the island nation.

All tourists to Sri Lanka must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before their arrival. However, citizens of Singapore, the Maldives and the Seychelles are exempt from the ETA and can obtain a visa on arrival free of charge.