The Department of Archaeology has called for a national policy decision to be taken with regard to conditions imposed on the granting of tourist visas including in relation to a flat fee or set price to be charged for the purpose of sightseeing.
Acting Additional Director General (Academic) of the Department, Prasanna B. Ratnayake pointed out that in the case of Bhutan a daily cost of 265 US dollars was obtained from a tourist as a condition for being granted a travel visa that covers visiting any place of attraction within the country.
In Sri Lanka, tourists and locals alike have to make payments at each site separately. Ratnayake acknowledged the existence of scams and rackets involving ticketing at sites such as Sigiriya, where tickets issued to tourists at a higher rate than those applicable to locals were subsequently taken back from the tourists on completion of the sightseeing trip and resold.
To tackle the sordid racket the Government is currently involved in the process of procurement in relation to introducing an electronic ticket (e-ticket) replete with a barcode.
According to Ratnayake, the price charged for tickets depended on the income level of the person.
“There is a local rate (Rs 20) and a rate for foreigners (Rs 1,000). One cannot charge foreigners the local rate and vice versa. There should be a national policy in this regard. A national decision should be taken in relation to adding the cost of entrance tickets for sites to the initial cost to be paid upon seeking entry into the country so that a tourist has to make only a one-off payment.
“There are different departments such as the Treasury, the Department of Archaeology, the Central Cultural Fund and the Department of Wildlife Conservation involved in charging amounts. This must be handled at a high level,” Ratnayake explained.