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Saturday April 20th, 2024

Sri Lanka free visas may boost arrivals 15-20 pct from India, China, Russia: official

ECONOMYNEXT – Free visas could boost arrivals to the South Asian island from key generating markets like China, India and Russia by as much as 15 percent, Priyantha Fernando, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said.

“Those were the three markets that we were looking at, because it’s generating numbers, and if we increase it by 10 to 15 percent, that’s going to bring in more income for the economy,” Fernando told reporters.

Sri Lanka charges about 20 dollars for an online electronic travel authorization for South Asian countries, and 30 dollars for others.

The cabinet of ministers also approved more countries than initially requested by travel authorities as they were not in the top 20 source markets, Fernando said.

“It was a separate committee that had been appointed, headed by the Prime Minister and three other ministers,’ he explained.

“There it was decided, taking into consideration the Prime Minister’s visit to China, Thailand and so on.”

Sri Lanka is seeking free trade agreements and closer economic integration with East Asia.

Between January and September of 2023, Sri Lanka welcomed 200,310 tourists from India, 47,631 from China and 132,300 from Russia.

In 2023 Sri Lanka saw 3,511 tourists arrive from Thailand, 7,284 from Malaysia and 1,602 from Indonesia

India became the top source market after Sri Lanka waived visas to India in an administration headed by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Due to seat constraints in state-run Indian airlines, a negotiations committee in Sri Lanka, where policymaker Rohan Samarajiva was involved also sought private Indian carriers to fly to the country.

Introducing online travel authorization for a fee, from the earlier visa on arrival, seemingly did not reduce arrivals.

For most travelers the ETA comes within minutes, and is probably among the easiest in the world. In an article published in October of 2023, Lonely Planet described the visa process as one [that] is relatively straightforward. Trip Advisor called it “very simple and quick“.

Sri Lanka gives free visas to Singapore and Maldives on a reciprocal basis already.  

“So on an experimental basis, we will run it up to 31st of March  and see where we stand, whether there’s a benefit to the national economy, and then revive it for the future.”

Sri Lanka had welcomed 6,210 tourists from Singapore in 2023. In 2019, the last year before Covid, Sri Lanka saw 13,871 from Singapore.

Sri Lanka immigration authorities are expected to gazette the new rules around November 07.

Up to September of 2023 Sri Lanka has seen more than 1.5 million tourists. Sri Lanka was initially targeting 1.5 million for 2023 and later said it would go up to 2.0 million based on higher than expected arrivals in the first half of the year,


However, inbound travel agencies and meetings and incentive travel firms have said new price floors, or minimum room rates, have put off some tourists as East Asia was more efficient and competitive than Colombo.(Colombo/Nov01/2023)

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Sri Lanka discussing giving extra land, water for Chinese oil refinery

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is in discussions with China’s Sinopec to give extra land and assure water supplies after the company decided to expand the capacity of a planned oil refinery in Hambantota, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said.

“There are concerns on how the water supply is going to be provided for the refinery,” Minister Wijesekera told reporters Friday.

The refinery will need more land and also revise conditions in a Board of Investment agreement, he said.

Read more
Sinopec to double capacity of new refinery in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota

Recommendations and decisions from Sri Lanka’s side had already been sent and Sinopec is expected to revert back in May.

“We are hoping to sign the agreement once everyone has agreed,” Wijesekara said.

The principle agreements are expected to be signed by June, he said.

The refinery could sell up to 10 percent of its output in the domestic market.

“There is no commitment by the government to purchase anything,” Minister Wijesekera said. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 302.00/50 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 302.00/50 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Friday, down from 301.50/302.00 a day earlier, dealers said.

There was increased demand for dollars after the central bank bought 715 million dollars from forex markets. In the previous two months it was buying on average about 200 million US dollars, leaving market participants and bank in a ‘oversold’ position.

There were some official dollars sales Friday dealers said.

READ Sri Lanka rupee quoted wide to US dollar as peg inconsistencies flare up

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 11.30/40 percent down from 11.35/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.95/12.05 percent up from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed stable at 12.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.30/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.10.2032 closed stable at 12.40/50 percent. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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Sri Lanka stocks close down, banks trade down

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed down on Friday, data on its site showed.

The broader All Share Index closed down 0.38 percent, or 44.80 points, at 11,753; while the S&P SL20 Index closed down 0.53 percent, or 18.46 points, at 3,456.

Turnover was at 1.4 billion. The diversified financials (Rs366mn) and banks (Rs266mn) sectors continued to see selling pressure.

“This was possibly due to uncertainty around the bond discussions,” market participants said.

With the exception of Sampath Bank Plc (up at 77.50) all other banks traded down in the day. Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc was down at 104.50, Hatton National Bank Plc was down at 188.50, and DFCC Bank Plc was down at 77.00.

LOLC Finance Plc saw the most trades and closed up at 6.40. Another LOLC company, Browns Investments Plc, also saw high traded volumes and closed up at 5.60.

Softlogic Capital Plc was up at 7.00, and Softlogic Holdings Plc was up at 11.20. A trading suspension imposed on SHL.N0000 was lifted effective today as the company submitted the annual report for the year ended 31st March 2023.

However, shares of the Company will remain in the Watch List “due to Qualified Audit Opinion and Emphasis of matter on going concern in the Independent Auditor’s Report in the Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31st March 2022.”

Dialog Axiata Plc, which announced its merger with Bharti Airtel Thursday, saw its share price close up at 11.90.

“There was some traction on index heavyweights,” market participants pointed out.

Top contributors to the APSI included Aitken Spence Plc (up at 134.50), Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc (up at 1,245.25, and Lion Brewery (Ceylon) Plc (up at 1,048.50).

There was a net foreign inflow of 5 million. (Colombo/Apr19/2024)

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