No visa-on-arrival in Lanka except for Maldivians and Singaporeans

Tourists will no longer get their visas on arrival in Sri Lanka September 30 onwards except Maldivians and Singaporeans. On Friday, Department of Immigration and Emigration of Sri Lanka announced that it was withdrawing the visa-on-arrival facility for tourists from 79 countries including India, UK, USA, China, Japan and host of European nations. It is from these and West Asian countries that Sri Lanka gets its chunk of tourists.

It means tourists going into Sri Lanka will now have to get their tourist visas stamped from Sri Lankan missions abroad. The decision comes a day after Economic Development Minister Basis Rajapaksa presided over a road show in New Delhi entitled “Sri Lanka as a destination for tourism and investment in its infrastructure” sponsored by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The function was to promote the Island nation as a tourism hub.

But the Lankan government quite clearly has one major problem in issuing visas on arrival – lack of reciprocity. Only citizens from Singapore and Maldives will continue to get their visas on arrival as our citizens are extended the same facility by them. Sarath Kumara said the government was mulling the decision to withdraw the facility as there was no “reciprocity” from 79 countries.

“It should be done on a reciprocal basis. I don’t think it is a big issue. Tourists who plan to come will come,” Sarath Kumara said.

The new rule, however, could mean a drop of tourists coming to Sri Lanka which is just beginning to see an increase in arrival of tourists after decades of civil unrest. Countries like the UK and US only recently amended travel advisories. As for India, according to tourism department data, more than 83500 Indian tourists came to Sri Lanka in 2009 – the largest number from one country to come holidaying in Colombo.