Unified Gulf Tourist Visa Set to Boost Regional Travel Within Two Years

Unified Gulf Tourist Visa Set to Boost Regional Travel Within Two Years

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is poised to introduce a game-changing unified tourist visa system that promises to simplify travel across the region and boost tourism within the Gulf states. According to the UAE’s Minister of Economy, this significant development is expected to become a reality within the next two years.

The decision to implement a single, unified tourist visa system received unanimous backing during the recent meeting of GCC tourism ministers in Oman. The proposal will be presented at the upcoming GCC summit. To facilitate the rollout of this groundbreaking visa system, specific regulations and legislation will be developed. The target timeframe for its introduction is between 2024 and 2025, contingent upon the readiness of each GCC country’s internal systems.

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The introduction of this unified visa system is anticipated to have far-reaching benefits, opening doors to travelers by granting them access to six countries under a single visa. This is expected to foster economic synergy across the Gulf region, streamlining the travel experience for tourists and promoting the growth of the local tourism industry.

The Minister emphasized that the UAE is fully prepared to welcome an influx of foreign tourists with the implementation of this unified visa system. The Emirates Tourism Council has already created a comprehensive tourist route that connects all seven emirates, making it easier for tourists to explore the diverse attractions and experiences offered by the country.

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Despite ongoing global economic challenges, the Middle East’s tourism industry has shown remarkable resilience. HSBC’s research report published in August revealed that the region, home to economic powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the UAE, achieved a “total recovery” in visitor arrivals during the first quarter of 2023, outpacing post-pandemic recovery in other regions.

The GCC’s 2030 tourism strategy aims to boost the sector’s economic contribution by encouraging greater inter-GCC travel and increasing hotel occupancy rates. The introduction of the unified visa system is a key component of this strategy. By 2030, the policy targets a significant increase in international travel to GCC nations, with a goal of hosting 128.7 million travelers, a substantial rise from the 39.8 million recorded last year—an impressive 136.6 percent increase from 2021.

The Minister also highlighted the GCC countries’ sophisticated and well-established travel and tourism infrastructure. The region boasts a total of 10,649 hotels, marking a 1.2 percent growth compared to 2016. Notably, the UAE ranks second in the region with 1,114 hotels, following closely behind Saudi Arabia.

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The introduction of the unified Gulf tourist visa represents a significant step forward in promoting tourism and fostering economic cooperation within the GCC. With this development on the horizon, the region is poised to become an even more attractive destination for travelers from around the world.

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