Sri Lanka’s leisure industry this week said it was opposed to plans to remove the visa-on-arrival scheme for tourists while expressing reservations about the target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016.
Speaking during a panel discussion on tourism in Colombo, Jetwing Group Chairman Hiran Cooray said he was opposed to any removal of visas on arrival which if implemented would adversely affect the industry which is now on a new, post-war growth path. Other speakers on the panel including Ajit Gunawardene, Deputy Chairman at John Keells Holdings, Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Hotels and Abbas Esufally, Chairman, Serendib Hotels were also in agreement. S. Kalaiselvam, Director General of the Sri Lanka Development Authority, said the authorities were considering an online application for visas for tourists.
Mr Cooray said Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who handles the subject of tourism, was also not in favour of the move.On the target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016, Mr Hapugoda said that Sri Lanka has to be careful about this target as the ‘carrying capacity is not sufficient for a number of this magnitude. He said cost of living could get affected if the country is not geared to meet the food and other essentials of 2.5 million people plus the local (20 million) population. “The government will somehow work towards this figure but do we have sufficient capacity?” he asked.
Mr Cooray said green tourism is how many of the countries are moving forward and this means Sri Lanka needs to ensure quality tourism and preservation of the environment rather than quantity (tourism).