Sri Lanka to extend visa exemption for Indian travellers after March
February 09, Colombo (LNW): Consequent to the significant increase in Indian tourist arrivals into the island, Sri Lanka is likely to extend visa exemption status for India after March to keep this momentum and encourage repeat visits, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando disclosed. .
“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.
Sri Lanka Tourism is experiencing a promising start to February, with over 43,000 tourists visited in the first six days of the month, pushing the cumulative figure for tourist arrivals to 252,035.
The surge in tourist arrivals is accompanied by an improved daily average of 7,297 visitors this month, compared to 6,718 in January, mainly boosted by Russian and Indian travellers.
During the first six days of February, Sri Lanka saw 43,782 tourists arriving, setting a strong foundation for the month and the ongoing winter season, which extends till the end of March 2024.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has set an ambitious monthly target of 238,614. Russia emerged as the leading source market, accounting for 14% of total arrivals with 6,289 visitors, followed closely by India with 6,007 arrivals and the United Kingdom with 4,011 tourists.
Sri Lanka facilitated visa-free entry for Indian travellers from December 2023 to March. “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,” tourism minister 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 added. .
“In the time of more options, we have to ease the travel process to encourage more tourists from India and repeat footfalls,” he added.
Industry analysts attribute the favourable uptick in arrival figures to the resumption of many new international airlines and charter flights, coupled with the heightened global attention on Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.
India maintains its position as the top tourist source market for Sri Lanka year-to-date (YTD), with a cumulative total of 40,406 arrivals, followed by Russia with 37,448, the UK with 20,676, and Germany with 16,980 and China with 14,512 arrivals.
Cathay Pacific, the largest carrier in Hong Kong, resumed flights to Sri Lanka after a four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The inaugural flight of Cathay Pacific Airways landed on 1 February at Bandaranaike International Airport, carrying 253 passengers.
As the industry continues to rebound, stakeholders remain optimistic about the prospects for sustained growth and recovery in the months ahead.