Free visa scheme to come into effect only after Immigration Dept. gazette: SLTDA

  •  By Shabiya Ali Ahlam

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) said yesterday that the free visa programme for seven countries that received the Cabinet nod recently will only come into effect after the Department of Immigration and Emigration publishes a gazette on the same.
While the Cabinet decision initially announced that visas would be offered free-of-charge to citizens of India, Russia, China, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand with immediate effect, the actual implementation is expected to take place in the coming week, likely on November 7.

The free visa scheme for the seven countries will be offered till 31 March 2024.
Speaking to reporters in Colombo yesterday, SLTDA Chairman Priantha Fernando said the original proposal for free visa was made only for three countries, namely India, Russia, and China, as they are the largest tourist traffic generators for Sri Lanka.
He said it is unclear as to why markets such as Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, and Indonesia were added to the list.

“The proposal from the SLTDA and the Tourism Ministry was to offer free visas for India, China, and Russia. The decision was made after having analysed what appeals to those markets, and this is where majority of arrivals are from. We are unsure how others were added to the list,” he said.
The final list was compiled by a committee headed by the Prime Minister’s office. According to Fernando, no consultations were made with the SLTDA prior to tabling the same.
For the first nine months of the year ending 30 September, India contributed 19.7 percent to the total tourist arrivals, whereas Russia accounted for 13 percent of the arrivals, and China, 4.6 percent.
Meanwhile, for the first 29 days of October, tourist arrivals to the island nation totalled 102, 423, bringing the year-to-date arrival to 1,118,679.


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