France eases visa procedures to bonafide Lankan travellers


French Ambassador Jean-Marin Schuh addressing journalists at the Alliance Francaise de Kotte. Others from left are Prof. Sarath Amunugama and Chandra Wickramasinghe. Pic by Kamal Bogoda

By Harischandra Gunaratna

French Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jean-Marin Schuh yesterday inviting more bonafide visitors from Sri Lanka to France said that the visa procedures had been eased and one could obtain a visa within 48-hours.

The Ambassador addressing journalists at the Alliance Francaise de Kotte said last year that 10,000 Sri Lankans had visited France and expected more to visit the country this year.

He said France with a population of 66 million people has 86 million tourists visiting the country last year and among the Asian countries China topped the list in 2014 followed by Japan with 700,000 and 500,000 Koreans.

The French Ambassador said the arrival of Chinese high-end tourists to France had leap frogged in recent years.

Ambassador Schuh said that the Alliance Francaise de Kotte the genuine institution recognised by the French government had played a pivotal role in making a significant contribution to the tourism industry in Sri Lanka by providing facilities to Sri Lankans to learn French.

"Those students who mastered the language had ventured out as successful tour guide lecturers among other things," he said.

Chandra Wickramasinghe, the hospitality industry expert and Chairman of Maalu Maalu Hotel said in 2010 there were only 30,000 French tourists visiting the country but it had increased by leaps and bounds with 100,000 visitors in 2016.

Wickramasinghe the veteran hotelier and travel agent said it was sine-qua-non that we double the number of French speaking tour guide lecturers from 200 to 400 to meet the growing demand as the French traffic to the country was on the increase.

He said the contribution made by the Alliance Francaise to the country’s tourism industry was immense and there were at least 25 leading travel agents serving the country’s tourism industry who have mastered the French language and made a valuable contribution.

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