Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has given its approval for the issuance of free visas to visitors from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. This initiative, introduced as a pilot project, took effect immediately and will remain in place until March 31, 2024. The announcement was made by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Sabry, via a tweet.
“Sri Lanka Cabinet approves issuing of free visas to India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand with immediate effect as a pilot project till 31 March,**” Sabry posted on Twitter.
This move is a significant shift, allowing travelers from these countries to obtain visas for Sri Lanka without any charges. India, in particular, has historically been a major source of inbound tourism for Sri Lanka. In September, India led the statistics with over 30,000 arrivals, making up 26 percent of the total visitors. Chinese tourists were the second-largest group, with over 8,000 arrivals.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has faced challenges in recent years, primarily due to a decline in arrivals following the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019, which resulted in the loss of 270 lives, including 11 Indians, and left over 500 people injured.
Beyond the tourism sector, Sri Lanka has been grappling with severe economic challenges since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The country is currently experiencing political turmoil, marked by protests calling for the resignation of President Rajapaksa.
The economic crisis has led to critical shortages of basic necessities such as food, medicine, cooking gas, fuels, toilet paper, and even matches. Sri Lankans have been enduring long queues outside stores for months, waiting for hours to purchase these essential items.
In light of these challenging circumstances, the Ministry of Tourism introduced a Cabinet Paper during a recent Cabinet meeting. This proposal suggested offering complimentary tourist visas to foreign travelers from five countries who plan to visit Sri Lanka for tourism.
The move to provide free visas to visitors from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand is seen as a step to revive the country’s tourism industry and attract tourists from these nations, with the hope that it will contribute to the country’s economic recovery and stability.