Sri Lanka to extend free visa scheme to boost international arrivals

Sri Lanka is planning to extend a free visa facility for visitors from some of its main source markets beyond March 2024 in order to boost tourist arrivals in the country as it embarks on record levels this year.

Officials said that the free visa facility for visitors from seven countries as a pilot project was introduced in November last year and set to end in March 2024. However, with promising arrivals in January and setting an ambitious target of 2.4 million arrivals for this year, higher than the record of 2.3 million achieved in 2018, the authorities were contemplating on extending this facility beyond March. The new date on when this facility will end is under discussion.

Sri Lanka hopes to attract more international visitors and may extend its free visa facility beyond March 2024; Nine Arch Bridge in Sri Lanka, pictured

The seven countries are India, China, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan. Indonesia and Japan are considered strong emerging markets while the rest are top source markets. The country fell short of the 2023 target of 1.5 million with arrivals at 1,487,303 in 2023, sharply up by 106.6 per cent from 719,978 in 2022.

January 2024 arrivals totalled 208,253, more than double the figures from the previous year. Provisional data showed that 60,122 travellers arrived in the first eight days of February 2024 alone with another promising month expected.

Along with this move, the authorities are also promoting a special visa for nomads who can work online from the country, said Harsha Ilukpitiya, immigration and emigration controller general. He added that this is to encourage work visas for this category of tourists. Nomad travellers are those who move from one country to another while working in remote locations.

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