Sri Lanka is set to welcome back foreign tourists from August under strict measures to boost the tourism sector that has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said on Saturday. Sri Lanka announced lockdown in mid-March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The severest impact was recorded in the tourism sector, with a drop of tourist arrivals by over 70 per cent year-on-year in March.
According to new guidelines, all travellers will be issued a visa valid for 30 days and extendable up to six months.
"Further relaxation of long stay guests is currently under consideration, enabling tourist to be granted five-year multiple-entry visas with a maximum six-month stay," Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said.
On COVID-19 measures, the authority said there won't be mandatory quarantine upon arrival unless symptoms are detected.
All travellers would be subject to PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests at the airport. The PCR tests reports are to be released in 4-6 hours.
A further test will be done 4-5 days after arrival by a mobile unit in coordination with a certified accommodation provider.
Travellers staying for more than 10 days will be required to take a third test during their stay.
In case of a positive PCR result, travellers will be quarantined in a designated hotel or hospital depending on the details of the case. Quarantine would usually be for 14 to 21 days if symptoms are detected.
The tourism sector of Sri Lanka has been in bad shape since last year when the country was jolted by the Easter Sunday attacks, which killed over 250 people, including Indians.
Sri Lanka Tourism Authority had planned for an increased number of arrivals in 2020, but the COVID-19 outbreak has forced to revise all targets.
"Originally 2020 was supposed to be a big year for Sri Lanka, as we had planned for a significant surge in visitor traffic. However, the ambitious plans of Sri Lanka Tourism for 2020 are now under the threat of the COVID-19 crisis," Tourism Authority Chairman Kimarli Fernando said.
Tourism accounts for about five per cent of the economy, with Britain, India and China the main markets.
The country has reported 11 deaths and 1,801 COVID-19 infections so far.