Terrorists on Easter Sunday of this year on April 21 bombed churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing more than 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals. As a result, many countries have issued travel advisories, undermining the country’s important tourism industry.
Foreign visitor arrivals in May fell a whopping 70.8 percent, the lowest since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war a decade ago. Tourist traffic in general for the first half of the year was down by 13.4 percent.
To try and bring tourists back, the Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry is offering free tourism visas on arrival to 48 countries, including China, India, the United Kingdom, Thailand, the United States, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Switzerland, Cambodia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Russia, and EU nations.
Tourist visas typically cost $20 to $40 and are applied for online or at Sri Lankan embassies and consulates.An official from the Tourism Development Ministry confirmed that the offer will remain in effect for 6 months at which time the government will assess the loss of visa revenue. Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said that he expects the move to boost arrivals but did not have an estimate of its earnings from visa payments.
Tourism was Sri Lanka’s third largest and fastest-growing source of foreign currency in 2018, accounting for almost $4.4 billion or 4.9 percent of the gross domestic product.