Indian tourists will soon have to apply online to get their Sri Lankan visas and not get it on arrival as they currently do.
Sri Lanka has in principle decided to withdraw the visa-on-arrival facility except for countries that reciprocate. Maldives and Singapore are the only two countries where Lankans get visas on arrival.
While Indians - and tourists from 78 other countries -- arriving in Sri Lanka are extended the facility, Lankans have to apply for an Indian visa at the High Commission of India in Colombo.
Government sources said President Mahinda Rajapaksa was keen to withdraw the visa-on-arrival facility because of lack of response from countries including Lanka's SAARC neighbours. At the same time, he was interested in introducing the online application option for tourists.
It will be made available very soon, sources said, adding possibly within the first two months of the year. Logistics like visa fees were being worked out.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Rajapaksa this week. It was attended by all stakeholders in the tourism sector and top officials from the immigration department.
In August, the government had withdrawn the facility but overturned the decision after a clamour of protests from the tourism industry. Tourism is one of the main earners of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka and, is finally witnessing a revival after decades of civil war.
The withdrawal of the facility could still impact earnings from tourism. But the government seems to have found a convenient way out now: the reciprocity factor will be respected while getting the visa online will also keep it as convenient for the applicant as possible.