Updated: February 14, 2020 5:25:03 pm
Striving to revive its tourism sector, Sri Lanka Friday approved the extension of its ‘free visa-on-arrival’ scheme until April 30 for the citizens of 48 countries, which includes India as well.
A senior minister in the Lankan government told PTI that the island nation’s tourism sector, which had begun to recover from the blows of the Easter blasts, received another challenge of coronavirus outbreak, which prompted the government to extend the scheme.
In April, as a security measure, Sri Lanka had suspended its plans to grant visa-on-arrival to citizens of 39 countries after the Easter Sunday bombings that claimed the lives of 258 people.
In July, the Lankan government added more countries, including India and China after it re-launched the free visa on arrival scheme, which was implemented from August 1.
In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the island nation in January suspended its policy of granting visa on arrival for Chinese travellers, after the health authorities reported the country’s first coronavirus infection that has killed 1,488 people in China while the confirmed cases of infection jumped to nearly 65,000.
China is Sri Lanka’s second-biggest market of inbound tourists after India.
The proposal to extend the free visa facility was presented by Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga in January.
In the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, the $20 visa fee for South Asian travellers and $35 fee applicable to visitors from the rest of the world were waived off.
Tourism, which contributes 5 per cent to Lanka’s GDP, took a hit after the ISIS-linked local extremist group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) carried out suicide bombings which killed over 260 people at three luxury hotels and three churches on April 21.
According to the monthly tourist arrivals reports compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) using the information on tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy, there were 228,434 tourist arrivals in January, a 6 per cent drop compared to the 244,239 tourists who arrived in January 2019.
(With PTI inputs)
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