GCC Countries Approve Unified Tourist Visa

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are set to implement a unified tourist visa, similar to the Schengen visa. The permit will enable tourists to travel across all 6 GCC member states: Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

The announcement was made by Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s Minister of Economy, at the 40th meeting of the GCC interior ministers in Muscat. The proposal for the visa will be further discussed in the upcoming month.

The unified GCC visa will be operational between 2024 and 2025, once the implementation regulations are established.

The new travel permit is expected to attract foreign tourists and boost trade between GCC countries.

Jassim Al Budaiwi, GCC Secretary General, commented:

“The unified Gulf tourist visa is a project that will contribute to facilitating and streamlining the movement of residents and tourists between the 6 GCC countries and will, undoubtedly, have a positive impact on the economic and tourist sectors.”

GCC Countries Approve Unified Tourist Visa

Easier Travel to all GCC Nations

The unified GCC visa will make travel to all 6 countries easier for tourists, who currently have to follow specific visa policies for each nation.

The new visa will work similarly to the Schengen visa in Europe, which allows holders to enter all 27 member countries using the same permit.

Al Marri also revealed plans for a connected tourist route linking the 6 GCC nations, intended for tourists staying over 30 days. The UAE’s Emirates Tourism Council is also discussing a tourism route connecting all 7 emirates.

Tourism Growth in Gulf Countries

In the first quarter of 2023, the Middle East became the world’s first region to return to pre-pandemic tourism arrivals. Gulf countries have been particularly successful, seeing over 136% growth in 2022 compared to 2021.

Dubai, the region’s tourism hub, welcomed 8.55 million international visitors in the first half of 2023 alone, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels.

The UAE, where tourism currently accounts for 14% of GDP, plans to increase this to 18%.

Industry experts believe the unified visa will revolutionize not just tourism but also the broader economy, creating numerous job opportunities.

When Will the GCC Visa Be Launched?

There is no confirmed launch date for the unified GCC visa, however it will be between 2024 and 2025.

Travelers are advised to regularly check travel updates for GCC states, to ensure they are up-to-date with any policy changes.

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