Creating new perspectives since 2009

GCC visa ‘on the table’ in bid to boost tourism

September 28, 2023 at 3:47 pm

30th Arabian Travel Market held at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on May 01, 2023 [Waleed Zein – Anadolu Agency]

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are planning to launch a single visa system, which would simplify travel within the region and boost tourism across all six of its member states, according to Bloomberg, which cited a UAE minister.

During the Future Hospitality Summit held in Abu Dhabi, UAE Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq Al-Marri said that the new visa regime could be introduced “very soon.”

At present, only citizens of GCC countries enjoy visa-free travel to countries within the bloc. Expatriate residents — over 50 per cent of the GCC population are non-citizens — on the other hand, must apply for a visa to travel to each member state, with some nationalities getting visa-free or visa-on-arrival privileges.

READ: No changes to UAE visa ban on Nigeria, despite claims by Tinubu

“I think that [a single GCC visa] is something which has been on the table. It’s been complementing all the GCC strategies on tourism,” Bin Touq told the conference. “Hopefully, we are going to see something around a pan-GCC visa, which will allow easier mobility of people within the GCC. A resident of Saudi [Arabia], for instance, can enter the UAE and vice versa. I think that’s where we see the future of GCC tourism.”

The UAE, he added, has built the infrastructure over the years to accommodate all these types of tourism.

The idea of a “Schengen-style” visa for the GCC was highlighted earlier this year at the Arabian Travel Market exhibition held in Dubai in May. Bahrain’s Minister of Tourism, Fatima Al-Sairafi, said that talks have been underway at the ministerial level across GCC states to introduce a unified single visa.

“We see that happening very soon because we see people flying from abroad to Europe usually spending their time in several countries rather than in one country. We really saw the value this can bring not only to each country, but also to all of us,” explained Al-Sairafi during a panel discussion on “The Future of Travel for the GCC”.

READ: Gulf countries, US call for demarcation of Kuwait-Iraq maritime border