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‘Working’ Russian   tourists set to be   dealt with by SLTDA

‘Working’ Russian tourists set to be dealt with by SLTDA

30 Dec 2022 | BY Safrah Fazal

Investigations are presently being carried out pertaining to Russian tourists who are operating businesses in the island while on tourist visas, and strong action is to be taken against such tourists if found guilty of the same, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) noted. 

A meeting regarding the issue will be held soon with associations for tourists, said SLTDA Chairman Priyantha Fernando.

Speaking to The Morning, Fernando said that the Russian Embassy has already been notified of the situation.

“If someone arrives on a tourist visa, they cannot operate businesses in Sri Lanka. You cannot overstay your visa, whether it’s a 30-day or 60-day visa. If they are violating those conditions, the authorities can take action against them according to the provisions of the law. This has already been handed over to the Department of Immigration and Emigration as well as the Tourist Police. 

“There are some cases where they have been overstaying their visas down South and getting involved in businesses that locals should be operating. We will be coming down quite strongly on them, because it will be under the Immigrants and Emigrants Act that action will be taken. Some of them could even be deported if found guilty. We have also informed the Russian Embassy so that they too are aware of it.”

Fernando added that according to the claims made by locals, Russian tourists have been renting out houses for themselves and then renting them out to other tourists, and have also been involved with renting out equipment such as watersports gear. 

“These are being investigated by the Tourist Police,” he noted, adding that thus far, no arrests have been made in this regard.

While a meeting in this regard was planned for Monday (26), it was postponed owing to Monday being declared a public holiday. He also noted that the meeting will be held in the near future.

Meanwhile, also speaking to The Morning, All-Ceylon Tourism Service Providers’ Association Vice President Udaya Suwendra noted that some Russian tourists on three-month and six-month visas are operating businesses in several areas in the island such as Unawatuna, Mirissa, Weligama, and Hikkaduwa.

“Checking their visas has to be done by the Tourist Police. However, the issue is that the Tourist Police do not have sufficient facilities to do so. They have no proper Russian interpreter. We were already informed at a meeting with the Tourism Promotion Bureau that all Tourist Police stations should have Russian-speaking guides, especially down South. When Police officers speak to them in English, they pretend to not know the language. The Bureau has shared some contacts with the Tourist Police, but I am not sure what is being done with that now.”

Suwendra added that Russian tourists’ businesses are being promoted through WhatsApp groups. 

“They rent out houses and they promote it within their WhatsApp groups. They place their bookings for houses or rooms through the groups and arrive in the island. Apart from these, they also rent out motorbikes and other vehicles, as well as watersports equipment. A lot of this happens on WhatsApp groups. Such WhatsApp groups cannot be controlled. These will have to be handed over to the Cyber Crimes Division.”

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