Sri Lanka to extend visa exemption for Indians past March

"We want to make Sri Lanka an easily accessible destination for Indian tourists," says tourism minister Harin Fernando

Representative image of visa stamp in passport (photo: IANS)
Representative image of visa stamp in passport (photo: IANS)
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PTI

Sri Lanka is likely to extend visa exemption status for India after March to keep attracting travellers from the country and encourage repeat visits, said tourism and lands, sports and youth affairs minister Harin Fernando on Thursday, 8 February.

"India is our number one source market and tourists from India helped our country on its path of recovery from the recent crisis we faced," Fernando said in a session at OTM 2024 (Outbound Travel Mart).

Sri Lanka has already facilitated visa-free entry for Indian travellers from December 2023 to March 2024. "We are working on extending it beyond March. We want to make Sri Lanka an easily accessible destination for Indians, who can just walk into our country for a hassle-free holiday," Fernando said.

By offering visa exemption to Indians, Sri Lanka will attract more footfalls, especially those who make last-minute plans and find visa process a hindrance, he said.

"In the time of more options, we have to ease the travel process to encourage more tourists from India and repeat footfalls," he added.

Sri Lanka may not be the only Asian nation laying down the red carpet for Indian tourists. Indonesia's deputy minister of marketing, ministry of tourism and creative economy, Ni Made Ayu Marthini, said the country had previously given visa-free status to 169 countries, but this was suspended due to the pandemic.

"However, we have begun opening visa exemptions for a few countries... and India is on the top of the list of countries. I hope we will be able to grant India visa-free status," she added.

India is the number two source of tourism income for Bali, and in terms of overall footfalls in the country, India is number six. With such a huge population, it provides a large market with great potential, Marthini added.

The 3-day OTM has had more than 1,600 exhibitors participating from 60 countries, alongside the 30 Indian states and Union territories, connecting over 35,000 industry professionals.

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