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Sri Lanka proposes free visas to boost tourism

June 25, Colombo (LNW): Tourism Minister Harin Fernando has advocated for the issuance of free visas to tourists from more countries to compete with regional rivals and achieve the nation’s goal of 2.3 million tourist arrivals this year.

At a press conference yesterday, Fernando announced that a special committee’s report on the proposal to grant free visas to tourists from 67 countries will be presented to the Cabinet within the next two weeks.

The Minister highlighted several government initiatives aimed at increasing tourist inflow.

“The Cabinet has appointed a special committee to review the proposal for issuing free visas to tourists from 67 countries. The report from this committee will be submitted to the Cabinet either this week or next,” he said.

“Our competitors—such as the Maldives, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore—offer free visa facilities. We have noticed a substantial increase in requests for six-month, multiple-entry visas, as well as for one, two, and five-year visas. To remain competitive as a tourist destination, we must also ease the regulations for single-entry visas.”

Minister Fernando also revealed plans for a global tourism promotion campaign set to launch this week, featuring five distinct campaigns targeting China, Europe, Australia, Japan, India, and Eastern Europe.

“The procurement process is complete, and we are finalising contracts with our partners. This campaign aims to attract a record number of tourists for the winter season, starting in November,” he added.

Additionally, a marine tourism promotion campaign is scheduled to launch by August, focusing on establishing Trincomalee and Arugam Bay as premier marine tourist destinations.

Minister Fernando noted that 33% of tourists visiting Sri Lanka are repeat visitors, which is why the government is promoting the tagline “Sri Lanka – You Come Back for More.”

Sri Lanka has already welcomed over 980,000 tourists in the first half of 2024. According to the latest report from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, 84,383 tourists arrived in the country between June 1 and June 23, 2024.

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