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Lanka launches visa free arrival scheme for tourists from India, 47 other countries

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Press Trust of India Colombo
Sri Lanka on Wednesday announced to give free visa on arrival to visitors from India and 47 other countries in its efforts to revive the country's tourism sector which witnessed a slump following the Easter Sunday bombings.
Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the scheme to waive off visa fees for travellers from 48 countries will start from Thursday. Travellers from India, Sri Lanka's main inbound tourism market are to benefit from this privilege.
In April, Sri Lanka suspended its plans to grant visas on arrival to citizens of 39 countries after the devastating Easter suicide bombings that killed 258 people.
Sri Lanka has re-launched the free visa on arrival scheme for the suspended 39 countries and has expanded the service to tourists from India, China and other countries as well.
Tourism which contributes 5 per cent to the island's GDP was dealt a severe blow after the ISIS linked local extremist group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) carried out suicide bombings which killed over 260 people at three hotels and three Churches.
"Tight security measures have been taken and tourism authorities are co-coordinating closely with the security authorities and intelligence," Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Kishu Gomes said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government was able to restore the security following the attacks.
"We gave tax relief to the tourism industry, reduced hotel rates and are now giving free visas," he said.
Tourism accounts for 4.9 per cent of Sri Lanka's GDP. Around half a million Sri Lankans depend directly on tourism and 2 million indirectly.
Tourism authorities said they are expecting to draw 1.9 million to 2.0 million tourists in 2019.
Gomes said Sri Lanka is expecting 117,000 tourist arrivals in July.
Daily average arrivals which fell to 1,700 in May had increased to 2,100 in June. By late July, daily arrivals had grown to about 4,000.

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First Published: Jul 31 2019 | 9:30 PM IST

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