Lanka slashes visa fee for Indian tourists

Colombo: Sri Lanka has slashed the visa fee it planned to charge from tourists from India and other SAARC countries to USD 10 from the originally planned USD 50, after New Delhi took up the issue with it. Non-Indian and non-SAARC nation visitors would, however, be charged USD 20, officials said today.

India raised concerns in late October over Sri Lankan immigration`s decision to levy a USD 50 visa processing fee under the island nation`s new electronic travel authorisation system (ETA) from January 1, 2012.

"India, through its High Commission here, told us that the visa fee is high. They wanted it reduced for all visitors covering SAARC nations," Chulananda Perera, Immigration Controller, told PTI. India has now replaced Britain as the country with most tourist arrivals to the island nation.

In September year-on-year, the Indian tourist arrivals had risen by 50 per cent contributing to a 27 per cent rise overall, tourism authorities said. Only the travelers from Maldives and Singapore are exempted from ETA and the processing fee. Tourism industry is now looking to revive its fortunes after the end of the war with the LTTE and has also expressed concerns over the scrapping of visa-on-arrival facility for nationals from 78 countries, including India, and replacing it with ETA. The government, however, has assured that the ETA would not cause problems in terms of delays deterring the would-be- travelers.