Published on : Friday, July 26, 2019
Sri Lanka has re-introduced and expanded a visa-free entry scheme for visitors for reviving its declining tourism sector after the deadly Easter bombings. The concession for tourists from 39 nations was suspended after three churches and three luxury hotels were bombed in Colombo on April 21 killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners.
“As the security situation has improved, the cabinet of ministers decided to revive the visa-free scheme and also extended it to seven more countries,” the government said in a statement.
A tourism official said that foreign governments have relaxed travel advisories for Sri Lanka since the attacks. Sri Lanka witnessed a surge in number of arrivals, which declined after the attacks.
The new countries added to the expanded scheme, which already allows travellers from the European Union, Australia and the United States to enter Sri Lanka without a visa, include China and India. Visitors still have to obtain a visa on arrival, but the government has waived the $35 fee from August 1.
Visitor numbers improved last month with some 63,000 visitors, although numbers are still down from 146,828 in June 2018.
Sri Lanka welcomed a record 2.33 million tourists in 2018, and became the world’s top travel destination for 2019 named by the Lonely Planet travel guide.