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Sri Lanka’s Tourism Minister Advocates for Free Visas to Boost Tourist Arrivals

Sri Lanka’s Minister of Tourism, Harin Fernando, emphasized the need to issue free visas to tourists from more countries to compete with regional rivals and achieve the nation’s ambitious target of 2.3 million tourist arrivals within the year.

During a press conference held today, the Minister announced that a special committee’s report on the proposal to offer free visas to tourists from 67 countries will be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers within the next two weeks.

Minister Fernando outlined several government initiatives aimed at attracting more tourists to Sri Lanka. “Cabinet has appointed a special committee to provide a report on the proposal to issue free visas to tourists from 67 countries. That committee’s report will be submitted to Cabinet either this week or the next,” he stated.

“Our competitors, including the Maldives, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore, all offer free visa facilities. We have seen a significant increase in the number of requests for 6-month, multiple-entry visas, as well as for 1, 2, and 5-year visas. To remain competitive as a tourist destination, we must also relax the regulations for single-entry visas.”

Minister Fernando also revealed plans for a global tourism promotion initiative set to launch within the week. “There will be five separate campaigns targeting China, Europe, Australia and Japan, India, and Eastern Europe. The procurement process is complete, and we are finalizing contracts with our partners. This campaign aims to attract a record number of tourists for the winter season starting in November.”

In addition, a marine tourism promotion campaign is planned for August, aimed at establishing Trincomalee and Arugam Bay as premier marine tourist destinations. “Apart from that, we intend to launch a marine tourism promotion campaign by August this year, to attract global recognition to Trincomalee and Arugam Bay as premier marine tourist destinations,” said the Minister.

Minister Fernando also highlighted that 33% of tourists visiting Sri Lanka are repeat visitors, which the government plans to leverage with the tagline “Sri Lanka – You Come Back for More.”

Sri Lanka has welcomed over 980,000 tourists during the first half of 2024, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority’s latest report. From June 1 to 23, 2024, 84,383 tourists have arrived in the country.

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