Only 7 of 39 visa-free nations brought over 50,000 tourists

Of the 39 countries that were recently granted free on-arrival visa facility in Sri Lanka, only four countries contributed over 100,000 tourists in 2018 and only three countries contributed between 50,000 and 100,000 tourists.

Furthermore, none of the Middle-East Countries were included in this list even though the region contributed over 3.5% of all tourists to Sri Lanka in 2018, along with Sri Lanka’s two biggest tourism source markets, India and China.

However, it is learnt that Sri Lanka Tourism plans to extend this visa-free facility to countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and China in the future, although details have not been made available yet.

It is widely known that a large number of Indian and Chinese nationals are working in Sri Lanka illegally by overstaying their visas, and this may have pushed them out of the original list of 39.

According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) data, five of the 39 countries contributed 25,000-50,000 tourists, ten countries 10,000-25,000 tourists, six countries 5,000-10,000 tourists, seven countries 1,000-5,000 tourists while four countries contributed tourists below 1,000.

The Cabinet of Ministers last month ratified a proposal to grant a six-month free visa period from 1 April to 39 selected countries. The proposal was presented by the Minister of Tourism Development, Wild Life, and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga to meet the targeted tourist arrivals of three million this year by boosting off season tourist arrivals by 20%.

The list of 39 countries includes six of Sri Lanka’s top ten tourism generating markets which are UK, US, Australia, France, Germany, and Netherlands. However, Russia has not been included in this list.

Of these 39 countries, only Singapore offers one month visa-free stay for tourists from Sri Lanka. Outside this list, on the basis of reciprocity, Sri Lanka has exempted tourists from Maldives, Seychelles, and Singapore from the requirement to obtain a visa for Sri Lanka.

According to the Passport Index 2018, the Sri Lankan passport has a visa-free score of 48 at 178th notch. Sri Lanka shares its scores with Nepal, Kosovo, and Congo. The Passport Index is the world’s most popular online interactive tool, which collects, displays, and ranks the passports of the world.