Visa charges for digital tourists yet to be decided

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The charges for the Long-Term Visa Category that is anticipated to be introduced for visitors to Sri Lanka under the digital tourism programme is to be decided by Cabinet, The Morning Business learns. 

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Speaking to us, Department of Immigration and Emigration Deputy Controller of Visa and Border Control B.G.G. Milinda stated that the charges on the aforesaid visa for these digital tourists would be decided by the Cabinet of Ministers, noting that the amount has not been decided by the Department.

The Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal tabled by Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga to launch a promotional programme by Sri Lanka Tourism to attract digital tourists to the country, and to introduce a new visa category to cater to these tourists.

The digital tourism sector is an emerging tourism sector around the world. According to igi-global.com, digital tourism is “the use of digital tools to prepare, organise, control, and enjoy the travel experience when doing tourism”. Accordingly, digital tourists make their living by promoting the tourist attractions in destination countries. These digital nomads stay in a tourist destination for a duration of months, or even years. 

He further said that Sri Lanka Tourism has requested to provide this long-term visa category only for a period of one year, with this digital tourist visa facility to act as a pilot project. Further extension of the programme can be expected based on the results of these efforts, and how successful they prove in attracting tourists through technology.

However, the Deputy Controller explained that policy decisions along with the qualification criteria in this regard have not been drafted yet, as Cabinet approval needs to be granted, even though Sri Lanka Tourism has made a request for approval regarding the duration of the visa.

Minister Ranatunga anticipates that this novel tourism promotion method will uplift the pandemic-affected industry and contribute to the economy by generating a flow of considerable amounts of foreign exchange into the country, while adhering to Covid-19 health regulations.   

Further, Ranatunga said that factors such as the availability of a stable internet connection to communicate, long-term visas, affordable accommodation, and tax exemptions on earnings can be considered the main factors in attracting such digital tourists, because these travellers stay in restaurants, public libraries, and other venues that provide internet access.

Currently, tourist destinations such as Chiang Mai in Thailand, Lisbon in Portugal, Medellin in Colombia, as well as Bali in Indonesia are engaged in attracting digital tourists. 

Accordingly, the granting of long-term visas and tax relief measures is sought to be implemented to encourage tourists, following the recommendations of the Sri Lanka TOurism Development Authority (SLTDA), along with the Immigration and Emigration Department, said the Tourism Minister.

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