ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka is mulling re-launching a free visa for 39 countries which was halted due to the Easter Sunday terror attacks, a report said.
The Daily Mirror, a newspaper, quoted Tourism Minister John Amaratunga as saying that the six-month visa free program will be launched on August 01 following cabinet approval.
He had said that 39 countries, which exclude the top markets India and China, will receive free visa.
The program, which was to launch on April 01 was delayed to May 01, but was then shelved following the Easter Sunday terror attack, when security was heightened.
Sri Lanka currently charges 20 US dollars for South Asian passports and 35 US dollars for other passports for tourist visas when applying online.
Obtaining a visa on arrival at the airport costs 5 US dollars more.
The Daily Mirror quoted Amaratunga as saying that a new system will be installed to address security concerns from launching the free visa program.
"We need a system to monitor who is arriving in Sri Lanka and to prevent criminals and other trouble makers entering the country," he was quoted as saying.
Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals plunged 70 percent in May after the terror attack, but showed some signs of recovery in June, when the fall was 50 percent.
Foreign governments eased their travel advisories on Sri Lanka within two months.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who earlier said that tourism earnings could fall by 1.5 billion US dollars in 2019, later revised it to less than 1 billion US dollars, according to media reports.
The Tourism Ministry is now undertaking many initiatives, including festivals, transit passenger programs and digital promotional programs to help accelerate the recovery.
The 39 countries are as follows:
7. Czech Republic
25. Slovak Republic
29. United Kingdom
30. United States of America
33. South Korea
36. New Zealand
39. Switzerland (Colombo/Jul10/2019)