46 countries to enjoy free visa from August
The Sri Lankan Government is planning to offer free visas to tourist from 46 countries starting August, according to Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Christian Affairs, John Amaratunga, who requested visiting Chinese journalists to promote the island as a favourable destination. The Government in February approved the issuance of free visas to travellers from 26 countries from April to October, in a bid to increase off-peak tourist arrivals.
However, the Government had to cancel the programme due to the tragic Easter Sunday bombing targeting three leading hotels in Colombo and three churches in the country.
Addressing local and Chinese journalists in Colombo, local and Chinese journalists in Colombo, he said that the Government has approved the re-launch of the free visa programme, now including some countries such as China and Russia, which were excluded from the earlier scheme.
He pointed out that China and Sri Lanka have been enjoying a good bilateral relationship and that the Government was supportive towards their ‘One-Belt-One-Road’ and ‘One China’ policies.
According to him, China was a crucial market for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, and was the number one source market in 2017 after it overtook the United Kingdom.
However in 2018, India overtook China in this position. “I don’t see why China cannot become the number-one source market for Sri Lanka once again. We want to see more tourists coming in from China,”he said.
He further stated that the Government is willing to allow Chinese visitors to bring their own travel guides, given that they will be accompanied by Sri Lankan guide so that the proper information is imparted.
Commending the ‘Free Visa’initiative by Sri Lanka, Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka, Liu Dong, said that Chinese tourists to the island would increase.
A Chinese journalist representing Lonely Planet said that Sigiriya was the best destination they visited during their stay in Sri Lanka, while many other journalists were very impressed by the country’s culture and wildlife.