The Cabinet of Ministers has recently endorsed a pilot project that grants visa-free entry to travelers from seven nations — India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand, effective immediately. This initiative is set to run until March 31, 2024, and comes as a strategic move to reignite the tourism sector, which is a significant contributor to the economy.
Tourism Minister Harin Fernando articulated that this visa-free policy is specifically aimed at tapping into the key tourist-generating markets. The ease of access is envisioned to attract more visitors from these countries, thereby stimulating the tourism industry which has faced challenges in the recent past1.
Furthermore, the announcement made by the country's Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry on October 24, 2023, underlines the government's commitment to fostering a conducive environment for tourism. The minister took to social media to unveil this pilot project, highlighting its immediate effect and the inclusion of these seven countries known for their potential to significantly contribute to the tourist influx2.
With the world gradually recovering from the pandemic and international travel resuming, this visa-free entry scheme is expected to position the nation favorably among tourists from these countries. Moreover, it is seen as a precursor to more comprehensive policies that may be adopted in the future to further enhance the tourism sector and ensure its sustainable growth.
The government's proactive stance through this pilot project showcases its resolve to revitalize the tourism industry, inviting travelers to explore the nation's rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural landscapes without the hurdle of visa procurement. This move is anticipated to not only bolster tourism but also to foster international relations and cultural exchanges, enriching the global narrative of travel and exploration.