Despite complaints by foreign tourists about delays in electronic travel authorization (ETA) approval, the Department of Immigration and Emigration has no control over increasing the system’s efficiency.
an official of the Department of Immigration and Emigration stated that it was beyond the Department’s capacity to make all ETA approvals faster as demanded by tourists.
“Several ETA applications require further checking, such as (in terms of) security, immigration, etc. Therefore, it is not possible for the Department to intervene in these matters. This is the reason why some ETA applications take time for approval,” the official noted.
Meanwhile, the automated web-based solution, which was scheduled to be launched by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) in June, with the aim of making the ETA approval process faster for tourists who were planning to come to Sri Lanka, will not be launched as per the directives of the Cabinet.
Speaking to us, SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijesinghe stated that cabinet approval was not granted for the web-based solution to be launched, as there was a possibility for the ETA approval to be further delayed if this mechanism was established.
“The web-based solution will further delay the ( electronic travel authorization (ETA) approval) process if it has to be done through our system. We are in dire need of tourists, and visa approval at the earliest is very important,” Wijesinghe said.
Adding, she said that a discussion with regard to the ETA approval matter was directed to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Prasanna Ranatunga recently.
The web-based solution was supposed to provide a range of services such as ETA approval, visa application, hotel accommodation, PCR testing, and other necessary processes for any tourist arriving into the country; these were currently performed manually.
Wijesinghe, speaking to us in June, stated: “The website is an immediate solution; as an alternative for the tourism app. Right now, everything is completed, but it is at the pilot testing stage where we need to monitor if there are any inaccuracies. However, after the approval of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT), it will be launched very soon.
“Through this web-based solution, ETA can be approved immediately through the automated service. Right now, until we send the (visa) recommendation, the ETA is pending, which becomes an inconvenience for the traveller and all stakeholders involved,” Wijesinghe further explained.
Expressing similar views, SLTDA Director – Tourism Planning Prasad Jayasuriya was optimistic, stating that the web-based solution would be launched to facilitate the ongoing ETA process.
“It is an intermediary solution since the tourism app is getting delayed further than expected. The current process is very long, and through the web-based solution, it will become easier for everyone involved, as tourists could make all payments directly, and visa approval could be done at a much faster rate, since confirmation from the hotels is no longer required manually,” Jayasuriya stated.
Attempts to contact Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga and Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi proved futile, as they were attending the International French Travel Mart (IFTM) in France.