Free visa, not visa-free
Travellers from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand can now apply for a Sri Lankan visa at no cost
To boost tourism, Sri Lanka's cabinet has given the green light to a proposal granting free visas to travellers from seven countries — India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand, according to an announcement by Sri Lankan minister of foreign affairs Ali Sabry. This initiative, launched as a pilot project, is set to run until 31 March 2024.
The move aims to attract more tourists to Sri Lanka, with the tourism ministry setting a goal of welcoming up to five million visitors in the coming years. The proposal for free tourist visas for travellers from the seven countries was presented at a recent cabinet meeting, the cabinet paper jointly put forth by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, tourism and lands minister Harin Fernando, minister of public security Tiran Alles, and Sabry.
The news, however, has been wrongly interpreted as a trip to Sri Lanka now being visa-free, meaning the island country can now be visited without a visa. The distinction between a free visa and a visa-free entry is significant. What has been allowed is the opportunity to obtain a visa to Sri Lanka at no cost.
In addition to free visas, the cabinet has also recommended implementing an e-ticketing system for numerous tourist attractions nationwide. This forward-thinking move is anticipated to make the experience more convenient and enjoyable for tourists. According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority website, the nation has received over 1 million tourists so far this year.
Sri Lanka's decision to offer free visas while retaining the requirement to obtain a visa is a promising step to entice travellers from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. As the scheme is rolled out, it is expected to boost tourism and strengthen the bonds between these nations and the beautiful island nation.