Thursday, 23rd September 2021

SL tourism industry urges continuation of free-visa regime

Colombo, Dec 31 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has urged the continuation of the free-visa regime, as it has helped the island nation to recover from the massive setback following the April 21 Easter Sunday attacks that killed over 250 people, a media report said on Tuesday.

The appeal by the private sector reportedly follows lobbying by the Immigration and Emigration Department for the suspension of the free-visa scheme for nearly 50 countries since August 2019.

“The waiver of visa fees is an encouragement and we prefer it to be continued for a further year until the tourism industry is fully recovered,” The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka President Sanath Ukwatte told the Daily Financial Times.

Colombo City Hotels Association President M. Shanthikumar also insisted that the scheme must be continued until the end of 2020 as part of the full recovery phase for the tourism industry.

He said it was helpful to keep tourists arriving especially from regional markets like India.

Shanthikumar said the industry would lobby for the scheme’s continuity when they meet Tourism and Aviation Minister Prasanna Ranatunga next month.

In October, Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airlines, described the free-visa scheme as a “positive and welcome step in the right direction as restrictions were a mental hurdle for many people when it comes to making travel choices”.

Following the April bombings that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo, there was a massive slump in tourist arrivals to the island nation.

According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, 1.6 million tourists arrived from January to November, compared to the 2 million arrivals in the same period in 2018.

–IANS

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