Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa voiced concerns yesterday (18) on the Government’s decision to increase visa fees through its new online system, warning of potential setbacks for the thriving tourism industry.

Addressing a gathering in Maharagama, Premadasa highlighted the recent recovery of the tourism sector from various challenges and expressed concern over the Government’s decision to raise visa fees while abolishing the previous Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system.

He cautioned that this move could allow certain tourists to prolong their stay and engage in illicit activities, which was frequently reported over the past few months.

“Some of these tourists are engaged in extending online loan facilities. But the Government has still not taken any measures to prevent those illegal activities conducted by the foreign tourists,” he charged.

Comparing visa fees with those of competitive destinations, Premadasa pointed out significant disparities.

“Thailand is charging $ 30-50, Cambodia $ 36, Vietnam $ 25, Maldives entry is free, Bali $ 50, whilst entry to the Maldives is free and Bali charges $ 50. In contrast, Sri Lanka’s visa fee stands at $ 75, with additional charges totaling over $ 100 for non-SAARC countries and $ 35 for SAARC countries,” he said, adding that these are not measures to boost tourism.

He also claimed that the implementation of the new visa system, in collaboration with GBS Technology Service and IVS Global Institute, to replace the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) methodology with the e-visa system will completely eliminate the previous globally praised, user-friendly system, reflecting the Government’s shortsighted decision.

Premadasa also noted that the decision reflects a growing dissatisfaction within the tourism sector, as stakeholders voice their dismay over what they view as ad-hoc and myopic Government directives.

“There are mounting concerns that these policies might undermine both the tourism industry and the broader economy,” he added.



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