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Sri Lanka on Wednesday (24) included India and China in the free visa-on-arrival scheme to revive the country’s tourism sector which witnessed a slump following the Easter Sunday bombings.

In April, Sri Lanka suspended its plans to grant visas on arrival to citizens of 39 countries after the devastating Easter suicide bombings that killed 258 people.

Sri Lanka has re-launched the free visa on arrival scheme, which will be enforced from August 1, for the suspended 39 countries and has also expanded the service to tourists from India and China, Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunge was quoted as saying by the Sri Lanka Mirror news portal.

Previously, India and China were not included in the free visa category. Plans had been made to exempt several European countries from visa fee, but the implementation of this process had been delayed due to the deadly attacks, Mr Amaratunge said during a function held on Tuesday. The scheme was to come into force on May 1 originally.

The scheme already allowed tourists from Thailand, the European Union, the UK, USA, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, and Cambodia.

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals declined 7.5 per cent in April 2019 compared to the same period last year, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority’s first monthly report since the terror attacks.

The visas on arrival pilot programme was part of a larger initiative to increase tourist arrivals to the country during the six month off-season period from May to October.

The island nation received 7,40,600 foreign tourists in the first three months of 2019. Around 450,000 Indians visited Sri Lanka last year and the island nation was expecting the total Indian tourist arrivals to cross one million mark in 2019.

The tourism industry expects the arrivals to fully recover in three to four months.

PTI