On August 29, the Sri Lankan government approved five-year multiple-entry tourist visas – with a maximum stay of six months at a time – for 35 countries.
While program details have yet to be finalized, such as fees, the 35 countries are expected to include Western, Northern and Central Europe and much of Asia, including India, the world’s largest source market. Sri Lanka.
Tourism stakeholders in Sri Lanka are hoping for a resumption of travel this winter, as several European countries such as France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – one of Sri Lanka’s biggest inbound markets – have relaxed their travel warnings against visiting Sri Lanka.
The restrictive travel advisories came into play a few months ago when Sri Lanka was facing a huge economic crisis marked by political unrest and fuel and food shortages. The situation has improved a lot now.
Trevor Rajaratnam, former president of the Association of Travel Agents of Sri Lanka, said it will help older travelers turn to destinations like Sri Lanka to escape a harsh winter, as most of Europe is struggling with a natural gas crisis that could affect home heating this winter.
Long-term visas would also help travelers in a hurry, Rajaratnam pointed out.
Shiromal Cooray, president of Jetwing Hotels, said the purpose of five-year visas could be for digital nomads who want to spend long periods in the country and come and go freely.
Last year, Sri Lanka was recognized as one of the best destinations for digital nomads, ranking second in Club Med’s index of the best places and countries in the world to become a digital nomad.
Sri Lanka hopes to attract one million tourists this year. Arrivals from January to July 2022 totaled 458,670 compared to 19,335 over the same period of 2021.
However, another travel industry veteran, who declined to be named, viewed the visa change negatively as it could open the floodgates to businesses not authorized by foreigners.
“In many tourist hotspots in Sri Lanka, foreigners with tourist visas have opened restaurants, bars, offered motorbike rentals and surfing facilities, and act as travel agents – taking away jobs and livelihoods from residents,” he said.