Schengen-like visa to travel across all six gulf countries

- A Monitor Report Date: 16 May, 2024

Dubai : The unified GCC tourist visa system will be established by the end of 2024 by the regional countries, said Khalid Jasim Al Midfa from Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Authority in a recent announcement at the Arabian Travel Market.

Stressing the importance of e-service, he assured travellers that efforts are being made to ensure simplicity while maintaining security standards. Al Midfa expressed optimism about the positive impact this initiative will have on regional economies during a panel discussion with other tourism officials.

Meanwhile, Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE's Minister of Economy, disclosed that the regional tourist visas will be named GCC Grand Tours, allowing tourists to stay in the six GCC countries for more than 30 days. He emphasised that this move will make travel to the region more convenient and affordable.

Following a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, Al Marri stated that once the system comes into effect, it will promote the diverse tourism destinations in GCC countries, attracting and retaining tourists for longer periods. This, he believes, will lead to an increase in the number of hotel guests and position the region as a top destination for both regional and international tourists.

Also, Al Midfa mentioned that the UAE and other Gulf countries are collaborating with major tourist operators and companies to introduce packages covering the entire region. Discussions are underway with hotels and airlines to establish partnerships. He emphasised that the government is working closely with the private sector to create a conducive platform for business. Additionally, once the GCC single tourist visa is implemented, companies and tourist operators will automatically offer combined packages.

Moreover, as part of the GCC's single tourism initiative, efforts are being made to increase the length of visitors' stays in the UAE. The goal is for people to have leisure trips lasting 2-3 weeks by combining packages within the GCC. Coordination may be necessary for major events to avoid overlapping. Once the single tourist visa is launched, both leisure and business travel packages will be offered by the private sector.

Sarah Buhijji, CEO of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, also mentioned that Bahrain is developing packages covering the entire region. Visitors could stay three nights in Bahrain, then continue to Oman and Saudi Arabia. The promotion aims to present the entire region as one destination. Bahrain has signed an MoU with Saudi Arabia to promote the two countries as a single destination and plans to do the same with other regional countries.

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