Sri Lanka on Tuesday waived the visa fees 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 per cent of the total tourist arrivals — have visited the island nation until September.

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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.

Struggling to revive

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.

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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. 

Meera Srinivasan is The Hindu’s correspondent in Colombo.