Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) is looking to extend the free Visa regime for tourists beyond March this year based on the success of the pilot programme.
The pilot project came into effect from late last November in offering free visas for the first 30 days of stay for nationals of China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan until 31 March this year in bid to rebuild the tourism sector.
Originally, the pilot programme was to include only India.
With plans to extend visa exemptions to more countries, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told Indian media that the neighbouring giant remains a top priority, given the significance of the country as a key all-year around source market for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.
Minister Fernando stressed on the importance of further streamlining travel processes to attract more Indian tourists and encourage repeat visits, especially in a time where travellers have numerous options.
According to SLTDA Director General B.H.R. Sariffo Deen, a final decision on the extension along with specifics is expected to be reached ‘very soon’, following the discussions with the Tourism Minister and other relevant authorities.
The SLTDA has already completed an in-depth study on the outcome of programme.
In December, there was a marked increase in tourist arrivals from all countries under pilot programme rose significantly.
As end of March marks the end of the so-called peak season, tourism authorities are targeting to increase footfalls by offering them the convenience of a stress-free vacation with a simple check-in process in particular to attract tourists who may incline for spontaneous and last-minute travel plans.
Number of popular travel destinations such as Thailand, Malaysia , China and Iran has launched similar programmes to support their tourism sectors , while more destinations such Indonesia and Vietnam are expected to join the bandwagon, in particular targeting emerging out-bound tourism market such as India.