Sri Lanka reopens borders to foreign visitors

Written by By Nivedita Bhattacharjee, CNN Kishani Mathur, CNN Sri Lanka has broken its isolation from international travel for the first time in a decade, removing quarantine and insect control provisions for international visitors….

Sri Lanka reopens borders to foreign visitors

Written by By Nivedita Bhattacharjee, CNN Kishani Mathur, CNN

Sri Lanka has broken its isolation from international travel for the first time in a decade, removing quarantine and insect control provisions for international visitors.

The recent lifting of the travel restrictions, effective immediately, is in response to a decision by Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena.

It was the first time in a decade that a country had lifted such restrictions.

“The country has displayed significant improvements since the defeat of separatist terrorism in 2009,” said Sameer Rathnayake, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

“Sri Lanka welcomes the decision taken by President Sirisena to allow unrestricted entry to all foreign citizens, which reaffirms the government’s commitment to further promoting regional peace and security.”

Under the new rules, visitors are no longer required to show proof of vaccination and follow all quarantine measures. They will only need a health certificate which is easily found on the immigration officer’s table. Visitors are also no longer required to register with the control center — they will be given the facility to enter.

Sri Lanka visa boom

Consequently, many more tourists will be able to travel to Sri Lanka — formerly a favorite destination for backpackers — since the refugee situation has improved dramatically over the past decade, with both internal and external travel numbers rising.

And because of this, the country has experienced its biggest jump in tourism ever, with another 4.5 million outbound travelers in 2018.

These numbers, Rathnayake said, may grow even more over the coming months, as there are no restrictions for entry at hotels currently owned by Sri Lanka’s controversial Sirisena regime.

The president’s hard-line approach to reforms in other areas, including the economy, has led to hundreds of thousands of workers being laid off, with restrictions placed on press freedom and information.

According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Sri Lanka, this had made it “difficult” for journalists to carry out their jobs and allowed the general public to be kept in the dark about important national issues.

Despite this, countries such as the United States and Canada have remained firm in their visa policies for Sri Lanka, with continued resistance on the part of Washington.

More change to come

Some international tourist organizations had already felt the effects of the new restrictions. Earlier this year, the U.S. Travel Association released a statement, in which it explained that, while “Sri Lanka has made many improvements in its security and visitor protection practices, we urge it to eliminate the remaining [embargo].”

The U.S. government, however, remains cautious. “Travel restrictions must remain in place, given that terrorist activities continue in Sri Lanka,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

For now, Krishan Nandy, CEO of the Colombo-based travel agency, Wandering, believes that more changes are on the horizon.

“I am pleased that the government has put an end to this ridiculous requirement of a license as the people of Sri Lanka deserve to go outside freely to enjoy the wonderful island with its ancient culture, unique nature and beautiful beaches.”

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