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Sri Lanka halts low season visa-free plan after bombings

 

Agence France-Presse

Colombo, Sri Lanka  /  Fri, April 26, 2019  /  02:01 pm
Sri Lanka halts low season visa-free plan after bombings

The decorative red-and-white facade of Jamiul Alfar Mosque, built in 1908, in the heart of the bazaar of Pettah, one of the oldest districts in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Nov. 28, 2016. (Shutterstock/Athikhom Saengchai)

Sri Lanka's government said Thursday it was suspending plans to grant citizens of 39 countries visa-free entry during the country's tourism low season after deadly Easter bombings that killed hundreds.

"Although arrangements were in place to issue visas on arrival for citizens of 39 countries, we have now decided to hold it for the time being in consideration of the current security situation," Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said in a statement.

"Investigations have revealed foreign links to the (Easter) attacks and we don't want this programme to be abused."

Sri Lanka had announced last month a plan to allow visa-free entry to tourists from 39 countries, including EU members, Australia and the United States, during the low season, from May 1.

The scheme did not include China and India, from where many of Sri Lanka's visitors come.

Read also: Sri Lanka may need more IMF help as blasts threaten tourism

The devastating Easter Sunday suicide bombings against churches and hotels killed 359 people, including dozens of foreigners.

The blasts have rocked the country's burgeoning tourism industry, which is one of the most important foreign exchange earners for the island.

Sri Lanka received 740,600 foreign tourists in the first three months of the year, up 4.6 percent from the same period a year earlier.

It welcomed a record 2.33 million tourists in 2018, and was named the world's top travel destination for 2019 by the Lonely Planet guide book.