The Sri Lankan Cabinet has approved the policy to issue free tourist visas to travellers from India and six other countries, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said on Tuesday, amidst efforts to rebuild the debt-trapped island nation's tourism sector.
Foreign Minister Sabry in a statement said that this would be carried out as a pilot project effective until March 31, 2024.
The Cabinet approved free entry to travellers from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand with immediate effect.
Tourists from these countries will be able to obtain visas when visiting Sri Lanka, without a fee.
India is traditionally Sri Lanka’s top inbound tourism market.
In the September arrival figures, India topped with over 30,000 arrivals or 26 per cent with Chinese tourists trailing at over 8,000 arrivals as the second largest group.
Tourist arrivals to the island had slumped since the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that left 270 persons, including 11 Indians, dead and over 500 injured.
Sri Lanka, which has been grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948, is also facing political unrest with protesters demanding President Rajapaksa's resignation.
The economic crisis has prompted an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and other fuel, toilet paper and even matches, with Sri Lankans for months being forced to wait in lines lasting hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas.