Sri Lanka and India discuss new measures to boost tourism between countries
Daily FT: New measures to boost bilateral travel between Sri Lanka and India came under review at the third meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) dedicated to tourism.
The virtual meeting was co-chaired by Ministry of Tourism Secretary S. Hettiarachchi from the Sri Lankan side and Ministry of Tourism Joint Secretary – Tourism Rakesh Kumar Verma from the Indian side.
Given the importance of tourism cooperation between the two sides, the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Shri Gopal Baglay also addressed the meeting and shared his views on the deep cultural and people-to-people ties between the two countries.
The High Commissioner expressed happiness that this meeting was scheduled at a time when both countries had started opening up for international tourists.
Noting that almost two-thirds tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka in the month of September 2021 were from India, the High Commissioner mentioned that the easing COVID-19 situation in both India and Sri Lanka and the tourism promotion activities undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka had been instrumental in the resumption of large number of tourist arrivals from India to Sri Lanka.
In their opening remarks, the leaders of both delegations underscored the importance of tourism cooperation between the two countries, which flows from an Inter-Governmental bilateral MoU signed in January 2004.
They conveyed the interest of their respective Governments in further promoting tourism in various sectors. In this connection, the importance of increasing air and sea connectivity; development of relevant infrastructure and greater collaboration and interaction between tourism stakeholders of both sides was also underlined.
Other issues discussed during the meeting included, inter-alia, facilitation of movement of tourists between the two countries; ways to further enhance cooperation in religious tourism through development of Buddhist and Ramayana circuits in India and Sri Lanka respectively, promotion of Kushinagar in India as a Buddhist travel destination; and increased wellness tourism, adventure sports tourism, MICE tourism, film and entertainment tourism, etc.
Both sides decided to facilitate cooperation between tourism stakeholders like hoteliers, travel agents, institutions concerned and tour operators by holding fairs, exhibitions, promotional activities and organising exchange visits. In this regard, both sides underscored the importance of recent decisions taken by the two Governments to boost two-way tourism viz., establishment of an air travel bubble between the two countries in April 2021; removing India from the list of travel restricted countries by Sri Lanka and resumption of issuance of tourist visas by the Government of India from November 2021.
The second JWG Meeting on Tourism was held at Colombo in June 2016. The third JWG meeting comes in the wake of a successful visit by the Foreign Secretary of India to Sri Lanka earlier this month. That has heralded enhanced bilateral exchanges, as both countries come out of COVID-related restrictive travel. These interactions include the ongoing visit of the Chief of Army Staff of India to Sri Lanka and signify the importance attached by both sides to enhancing bilateral cooperation in line with the vision and commitment of leadership of the two countries.
The Indian High Commission has said the meeting of the JWG on Tourism would impart further momentum to the strong people-to-people and cultural ties between India and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka and India enjoy strong bilateral and trade ties. The two countries also have an operational free trade agreement (FTA). Sri Lanka and India are also looking at further enhancing the trade agreement with a more comprehensive plan. India also plays a key role in Sri Lanka’s development agenda. Given the country’s expanding economy and the growing business/investment opportunities in Sri Lanka, Indian businesses/investors could explore the opportunities in neighbouring Sri Lanka. Indian businesses/investors could also look at forming partnerships or joint ventures with local businesses to engage with other countries in the region.
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