Business

ETA approval to be automated

  • SLTDA to launch automated web-based solution for approvals 

  • Website pending approval from ICTA, SLCERT 

By Yakuta Dawood

 

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) is scheduled to launch an automated web-based solution within the next two weeks to make the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), and other visa approvals fast and efficient for tourists preparing to come into Sri Lanka, The Sunday Morning Business exclusively learns. 

Speaking to us, SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijesinghe stated the ETA, visa, hotel accommodation, PCR testing and all the other necessary processes for any tourist to arrive into the country is done manually at the moment, hence in order to create efficiency and benefit all stakeholders involved, the website will be launched by this month. 

“The website is an immediate solution, as an alternative for the tourism app, right now everything is completed but is at the pilot testing stage to monitor if there are any inaccuracies. However, after the approval by the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT), it will be launched very soon,” Wijesinghe said. 

Explaining how the current system works, Wijesinghe stated that for ETA approval, SLTDA receives details from Level One hotel accommodation along with PCR details of the tourist which will be checked and subsequently a recommendation would be sent to the Department of Immigration and Emigration. After that, they review and approve the tourist’s ETA for the arrival. 

However, with the web-based solution, all these activities will be within one platform, for instance, when the tourist fills the ETA form for approval, they will get their preference number in which all the details of their arrival, accommodation, PCR and other necessary documentation will be added. 

“Therefore, through this web-based solution, ETA can be approved immediately through the automated service. Right now, until we send the recommendation, ETA is pending which becomes inconvenient for the traveller and all the stakeholders involved,” Wijesinghe explained. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, SLTDA Tourism Planning Director Prasad Jayasuriya said that to facilitate the ongoing process, the web solution will be launched as soon as possible within the month of June. 

“It is an intermediary solution since the tourism app is getting delayed more than expected. The current process is very long, and through the web-based solution it will become easier for everyone involved as the tourist could make all the payments directly, and visa approval could be done at a much faster rate since confirmation from the hotels is no longer required by word,” Jayasuriya stated. 

Meanwhile, speaking at the Sri Lanka Investment Forum 2021, SLTDA Chairperson Kimarli Fernando said that the tourism industry will have a positive impact after the pandemic as people will want to connect with communities and nature when travelling. 

“For the first time, Sri Lanka Tourism is introducing a travel app which is underway with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank. In order to enhance the visitor’s experience and to improve the service quality, we believe our app will set a new standard. We are a growth focus industry, hence we will continue to improve in our services,” Fernando said. 

Further, speaking to us in October 2020, Fernando said that as of August, Version Zero (V0) of the app was ready and awaiting authorisation from the Immigration and Emigration Department to be linked with the online visa process. 

While V0 of the app is set to focus on Covid-19-related information and features, Fernando stated that the next version of the app, Version One (V1), is set to have a multitude of data and features which are aimed at enhancing Sri Lanka’s tourism experience. 

Its features include the ability to buy tickets for Government-run tourist destinations such as Sigiriya, access to maps, registered hotels, sports centres, tour guides, an emergency button to connect the tourists with the nearest police stations and it will even host a platform to rate each tour guide. 

Accordingly, Fernando plans to share data gathered through the app with stakeholders, making it easier for them to pitch Sri Lanka as the perfect tourist destination to each international market while targeting their specific interests.