Sunday, 9 January 2011
The Deputy Minister was speaking at the inaugural programme at Wadduwa beach yesterday. The government hopes to attract 700 thousand tourists to Sri Lanka under the “visit Sri Lanka” programme. The Deputy Minister also noted that the government will ink agreements with 7 countries to commence new air services in coming months. Under the new online visa issuing programme, a large number of foreigners benefit all over the world. Chairman of the bureau, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa was also present at the event.
Monday, 3 January 2011
These visitors who arrived in the early hours of the morning on Saturday, were welcomed by Lakshman Yapa Abeywardhana, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism and Malraj Kiriella, Acting Managing Director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau along with the heads of the tourism and travel trade .
Further the traditional drummers and dancers made a breathtaking performance welcoming the tourists, who were then garlanded and offered surprise gifts.The incoming tourists were invited to a traditional sweetmeats buffet table with kiribath and kavum and also to light the traditional oil lamp on 1 January 2011.
Visit Sri Lanka 2011 was declared by President Mahinda Rajapaksa after attaining peace in the country
Sri Lanka Tourism is set to achieve the target of 700,000 tourists in 2011 with the launch of Visit Sri Lanka Year.
Sri Lanka Tourism launched Visit Sri Lanka 2011 with 12 theme events spread across the year. Twelve themes will be promoted during each month of 2011, symbolising the 12 letters in the “Wonder of Asia”. These 12 themes include beaches, sports and adventure, MICE, people & culture, religious tourism, weddings & honeymoons, body & mind wellness, heritage, nature & wildlife, community & education, culinary and shopping & entertainment.
Sri Lanka Tourism’s aim with the campaign is also to the get the involvement and the support of the domestic market and to develop these products by the end of the year. With the help of the locals, the idea is to create a safe and beautiful environment for the visiting tourist.
Sri Lanka was earlier known as a beach destination. However with the events planned for year 2011 and the products created surrounding the events and themes, the intention is to highlight the various products that could cater to different market segments the world over.
'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 arrivals to Sri Lanka rose sharply last year, topping 600,000, after the island's 30-year ethnic war ended in May 2009.A top hotelier, who is involved in promoting Sri Lanka tourism abroad, described the new visa move as “frightening” for the hospitality industry, the Sunday Times newspaper said.
The reactions came after the government on Friday decided to charge a visa fee on visitors from 78 countries, including tourists from Britain, France, Germany, India and the US and cancel the on-arrival visas facility.
The new measures are part of a new on-line visa scheme that will come into effect shortly, the newspaper quoted Immigration and Emigration Controller Chunananda Perera as saying. A standard fee would be announced soon.
Under the new system, visitors could collect an entry visa to Sri Lanka for a fee via the internet from the Sri Lanka Immigration Web site, which Perera said would reduce time, travel and paper work while also bringing in additional revenue to the country.Approval for a visa would not take more than a single day.
Sri Lanka has revived plans to scrap the visa on arrival for foreigners, except Maldivians and and Singaporeans, and will launch an on-line visa application system, officials said Friday.
The government was to discontinue granting landing permits from October 1, but the scheme was put on hold following objections from the tourism industry. However, the authorities will now implement the system soon, officials said.
An immigration department source said the tourism industry had argued that foreign holidaymakers would be discouraged from visiting if they have to go to a Sri Lankan embassy for a visa before travelling.
The Sri Lankan president's office in a statement said Friday that the authorities will soon launch an on-line application system for foreign nationals to get their visas through the Internet.
"The President instructed officials to quickly introduce a simple system of obtaining visas through the use of the Internet," the statement said. It did not elaborate. "We are working on a system to expedite the visa applications online," an official at the immigration department said.
He said visitors from Singapore and the Maldives, which grant Sri Lankan passport holders landing permits on arrival, would be exempted from having to obtain a visa before reaching the island.
Sri Lanka has granted foreign tourists a 30-day visa on arrival since the 1970s as part of a move to promote tourism, which was badly affected by the island's 37-year ethnic conflict.
The local tourism industry has been buoyed by a near 50 percent increase in foreign visitors since fighting ended in May last year. Sri Lanka hopes to attract over 700,000 tourists in the New Year.