Colombo, October 15: The third meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) on Tourism was held on Thursday in the virtual mode. The meeting was co-chaired by S. Hettiarachchi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism from the Sri Lankan side and Rakesh Kumar Verma, Joint Secretary (Tourism) in the Ministry of Tourism from the Indian side.
Given the importance of tourism cooperation between the two countries, the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay, also addressed the meeting and shared his views on the deep cultural and people-to-people ties between India and Sri Lanka.
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 of the tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka in the month of September 2021 were from India, the High Commissioner mentioned that the easing of the Covid-19 situation in both India and Sri Lanka and the tourism promotion activities undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka have helped resume large-scale tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka from India.
In their opening remarks, the leaders of both two 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 the movement of tourists between the two countries; ways to further enhance cooperation in religious tourism through the development of Buddhist and Ramayana circuits in India and Sri Lanka respectively; the promotion of Kushinagar in India as a Buddhist travel destination; and increase wellness tourism, adventure sports tourism, MICE tourism, film & entertainment tourism etc.
Both sides decided to facilitate cooperation between tourism stakeholders like hoteliers, travel agents, and tour operators by holding fairs, exhibitions, promotional activities and organizing 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 the resumption of the issuance of tourist visas by the Government of India from November 2021.
The 2nd JWG Meeting on Tourism was held in Colombo in June 2016. The 3rd 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. These visits signify the importance attached by both sides to enhancing bilateral cooperation in line with the vision and commitment of the leaderships of the two countries.
Today’s meeting of the JWG on Tourism will impart further momentum to the strong people-to-people and cultural ties between India and Sri Lanka.