Sri Lanka tourist trade raises alarm over new visa rule

Jan 02, 2011 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s tourist industry wants the government to postpone a new rule to charge for visas, scrapping on-arrival visas, saying it could deter visitors whose numbers boomed after the end of a war, a report said. Approval for a visa would not take more than a single day. ‘New visa rules cause panic in hotel-tourism sector’, was how the Sunday Times newspaper headlined the story, saying visitors from 78 countries will be slapped with a visa fee with an online payment method to be introduced.

Sri Lanka hoteliers had expressed serious concern over government moves to charge for visas from foreigners visiting the country, except those from Singapore and the Maldives, which give Sri Lankans on-arrival visas, the paper said.

One of the reasons why we attract a large number of visitors to Sri Lanka is because of the easy access to the country,” it quoted Anura Lokuhetti, president of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL), as saying.

“That is why we urge the government to defer this move until 2012.

He said it was encouraging to note that the government was taking a keen interest in promoting the tourism sector, but this was not the time for such a move.

Tourist arri