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Government to implement visa free policy to boost tourism: Minister Harin 

June 26, Colombo (LNW): The Government will implement visa free policy to boost tourism following recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Secretaries Committee appointed by President Ranil Wickremasinghe. 

Tourism Minister Harin Fernando yesterday anno-unced that the report on the process of granting visa-free status for select countries will soon be presented to the Cabinet for approval.

Last month, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal tabled by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to establish an Inter-Ministerial Secretaries Committee tasked with addressing the concerns surrounding the visa system and delivering recommendations within a month.

The committee led by Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, was entrusted to recommend a well-coordinated framework in implementing a National Visa Policy. 

“Establishing a robust and transparent visa policy that aligns with national interests will promote tourism and facilitate international travel,” Minister Fernando told journalists at Presidential Media Centre.

The development follows intense criticism faced by the Government over the outsourcing of the visa system to a foreign entity which earlier operated under the supervision of the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Industry stakeholders claimed that failure to implement attractive travel policies, pushed potential tourists to opt for competitive countries like Thailand, Singapore, Maldives and Malaysia.

A joint Cabinet paper by the Tourism Minister Fernando and Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry proposing visa-free status for citizens of 67 countries was submitted aiming to stimulate tourism and promote Sri Lanka as a preferred travel destination, aligning with the country’s goal of achieving 5 million tourist arrivals by 2030.

Fernando said that the introduction of visa free would definitely attract more visitors and enhance the overall economic impact of the industry.

“Over 990,000 tourists have visited the country so far in 2024,” he confirmed.Noting that the average tourist expenditure is currently $ 180, he said the aim is to attract 20% to 30% of visitors to spend between $ 300 and $ 400 next year. 

He also outlined that five global promotional campaigns have been carried out in key markets China, Japan, India and Europe, whilst adding that a ‘must visit’ initiative is underway to further promote Sri Lanka’s unique attractions.

, Sri Lanka has successfully entered the top ten lists of global tourist destinations. A notable 33% of tourists are repeat visitors, indicating strong satisfaction with their experiences in our country,” the Minister explained. 

“Efforts are underway to enhance maritime tourism, particularly focusing on transforming Trincomalee and Arugam Bay into hubs for maritime activities. We will take Trincomalee to the world as a brand. Arugam Bay is already a well-known brand,” he stressed. 

 The Minister also highlighted plans to promote deep-sea diving in Arugam Bay and Trincomalee as part of the marine tourism strategy.

In addition, he reiterated plans to launch domestic flight services aimed at further developing the tourism sector

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