Sri Lanka approves free tourist visas for visitors from India, six other countries

Move part of government’s efforts to boost tourism and shore up foreign exchange reserves 

October 24, 2023 01:20 pm | Updated 07:37 pm IST - Colombo

A tourist walks atop the 180-metre (600-foot) fortress of Sigiriya rock, in Colombo. Photo used for representation purpose only.

A tourist walks atop the 180-metre (600-foot) fortress of Sigiriya rock, in Colombo. Photo used for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: AFP

Sri Lanka on October 24 waived visa fee for Indians and tourists from six other countries, as part of its efforts to boost tourist arrivals and help rebuild the island nation’s battered economy following last year’s financial crash.    

India has remained Sri Lanka’s top source market for many years. This year, over 2 lakh Indian tourists — constituting 20% of the total tourist arrivals — have visited the island nation until September.

Also read: Sri Lanka counting on Indian tourists to aid economic recovery

As part of its decisions this week, the Cabinet announced implementation of a pilot project to issue free tourist visas to tourists from China, India, Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan until March 31, 2024. According to a statement on the weekly Cabinet decisions, published by the Department of Government Information, the move is part of “several new programmes” planned for the promotion of the Sri Lankan tourism industry, one of the chief foreign exchange earning sectors for the country, apart from exports and worker remittances.

Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is struggling to bounce back after three major setbacks in the last few years — the Easter Sunday terror attacks in 2019, the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and the unprecedented economic crisis in 2022.

Also read: Uncle’s in Colombo celebrates Sri Lanka with arrack cocktails and cassava chips

Until now, Indian tourists were charged $20 with their visa application online. The decision to issue free tourist visas is likely to boost tourist arrivals including from India, officials said.  

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