Sri Lanka will issue one-month free visas on arrival to visitors from around 50 countries. The new visa rules start today, Thursday 1 August and will last for six months.
Previously, most visitors to Sri Lanka had to pay $35 (Dh129) for a one-month visa. Travellers from South Asia paid $20 (Dh73) for the same.
The new rule is being introduced to help regenerate the country’s tourism industry after the nation was rocked by Easter bomb attacks. Three luxury hotels and three religious buildings were attacked by terrorists on 21 April 2019, killing 263 people.
Since then, tourism to the country has dropped substantially. Government data showed a 45 per cent decrease in visitors in July, when compared to figures from 2018.
Travellers from the UAE, US, Europe, the UK, Russia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are among the 48 nations who can apply for the free visa online, or on arrival. Visitors can apply ahead of time online, or get the free visa on arrival.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe assured the public that Sri Lanka is now safe for tourists saying that “security has returned to normalcy.”
Introducing a free visa is the latest in a string of measures taken by the Sri Lankan authorities to try to revive tourism. Other initiatives include reducing airline ground charges and aviation fuel prices. Hotels have also announced reduced rooms, with discounts of up to 60 per cent.
In 2018, around 2.3 million tourists visited the teardrop nation. It was also picked by Lonely Planet as the best country in the world. Improved transport links, new hotels, natural beauty and a fusion of cultures were cited as the reasons the island was given the honour in the guidebook publisher’s annual Best in Travel awards in October last year.