Sri Lanka is now offering free one-month visas to citizens from nearly 50 countries in an attempt to boost tourism post the terror attacks in April. Tourism Minister John Amaratunga has announced that the government will waive the existing visa fee ($20 for nationals from South Asia and $35 for everyone else) for arrivals from 48 countries, reports Lonely Planet.
Free-visa in place from August 1
The free-visa will apply to both tourists and those visiting for business purposes. The new rule was put in place on August 1 and will be applicable for 6 months. Sri Lanka started 2019 in the middle of a tourism boom. The number of tourists had increased by 12% in 2018 compared to the previous year. However, tourism plummeted after the country witnessed horrific terror attacks in April.
A decline in tourism since the terror attacks in April
The bomb blasts that rocked the country on Easter this year killed a total of 263 people. Subsequently, international arrivals in May fell by a shocking 71%. This has been the lowest since the Sri Lankan civil war ended a decade ago. The numbers have been confirmed by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
Number of visitors to Sri Lanka is slowly returning to normal
The significant decline in tourism has been a cause for worry but things might be looking up for Sri Lanka. In June, the number of tourists increased to 63,072 compared to 37,802 in May as Foreign Offices around the world altered their travel warnings. In another attempt to encourage travellers to visit the country, the Sri Lankan government announced a reduction in airline fees. Last month it was revealed that airline fees would be reduced for six months and a number of hotels offered huge discounts that went up to 70%.
With the new addition of free-visas, tourism is likely to improve in the country. The free visa is applicable to nationals from US, Canada, the UK, European Union nations, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, China, India and Indonesia.