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Minister vows to resolve visa system challenges by May 7 amid concerns of significant losses

May 01, Colombo (LNW): Tourism Minister Harin Fernando has committed to resolving technical challenges within the new visa system by May 7th, responding to concerns over potential losses in tourist arrivals and earnings for the year, estimated at 230,000 arrivals and US$ 425 million, respectively.

The transition to a platform managed by IVS-GBS and VFS Global earlier this month marked a shift from the Department of Immigration & Emigration’s electronic travel authorisation system.

The new system introduced a multiple-entry visa at a cost of US$ 75, with stays limited to a maximum of 60 days, omitting the previously available single-entry visa option.

Additionally, an extra service fee of US$ 18.5 was implemented.

Expressing disappointment over the situation, Fernando reiterated his commitment to addressing the issue, acknowledging the collective responsibility of his role as a Cabinet Minister.

He clarified that his Ministry was not consulted regarding the decision to remove the single-entry visa option.

Speaking at a press briefing in Colombo to unveil the ‘Southern MICE Expo 2024,’ Fernando assured that while a long-term tourist visa was introduced based on industry requests, there were no plans to eliminate the 30-day single-entry visa, particularly crucial for shorter visits.

According to SLTDA Chairman Priantha Fernando, Sri Lanka anticipates a decline of 25,000 tourist arrivals in April due in part to the visa issue.

Looking ahead to the global promotion campaign set for the third week of May, Minister Fernando pledged to address technical issues by early May through necessary changes to the gazette notification in parliament.

However, the US$ 18.5 service fee would remain, as it is charged by the operator, albeit at a relatively low rate compared to fees in other countries, the Minister emphasised.

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