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Tourism stakeholders ON Sri Lanka's Visa Cost Surge

Tourism Stakeholders Urge President to Address Surge in Sri Lanka's Visa Costs. Concerns Mount as Tourist Visa Process Becomes Costlier and Complex

In a bid to restore Sri Lanka's competitive edge in tourism, stakeholders have appealed to President Ranil Wickremesinghe to intervene amidst soaring visa costs, which now rank the highest in Asia. They underscored the significant barrier this poses for tourists compared to rival destinations like Thailand and Vietnam, which either offer free visas or charge substantially lower fees.

In a letter to the President, stakeholders emphasized the need for a user-friendly visa process akin to the previous ETA system, facilitating seamless acquisition of the requisite 30-day, single-entry visa. They highlighted the pivotal role of the tourism sector in Sri Lanka's economic recovery, aiming for 2.3 to 2.5 million tourist arrivals in 2024, a target threatened by the recent visa changes.

Expressing concerns over the abrupt fee hike and convoluted application process, stakeholders warned of potential deterrence to tourists, potentially plummeting arrivals below the anticipated threshold. They questioned whether certain elements within the government were inadvertently hindering progress despite collective efforts to revitalize the industry.

Drawing attention to recent developments, stakeholders noted the suspension of the Government ETA website and the exclusive reliance on a privately operated platform for visa processing. While assurances were given regarding the availability of a single-entry tourist visa for $50 by May 1, 2024, stakeholders lamented the persisting complexity and additional fees likely to burden applicants.

The shift in visa processing has led to a notable surge in costs, with the absence of the previously accessible single-entry tourist visa with a 30-day validity. Instead, only a more expensive six-month multiple-entry visa is presently offered at a total cost of $100.77, inclusive of service and convenience fees.

The ramifications of these changes extend beyond financial burdens, as they impede the influx of tourists, particularly during peak family travel periods. The current fees could necessitate a hefty sum of $400 for a family of four, hindering accessibility to the country.

Attached reports further elaborate on the impact of visa costs and the implications of the altered processing system on Sri Lanka's tourism industry. Additionally, correspondence from the new visa website highlights operational glitches, prompting delays and disruptions for prospective tourists.