Thu, 09 November 2023
GCC states have unanimously approved the proposed unified tourism visa system for the region, setting the stage for a new era in the highly crucial economic sector.
The system, which is expected to come into effect between 2024 to 2025 across the six-nation bloc, was announced by GCC Secretary General Jassim Al Budaiwi at the 40th meeting of GCC interior ministers in Oman.
The decision is expected to streamline travel logistics and underpins the “continuous communication and co-ordination” between the GCC states, he said.
“The unified Gulf tourist visa is a project that will contribute to facilitating and streamlining the movement of residents and tourists between the six GCC countries and will, undoubtedly, have a positive impact on the economic and tourist sectors,” Mr Al Budaiwi said.
The unified visa is a major element of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, which is aimed at increasing the sector's economic contribution through increased regional travel and higher hotel occupancy rates.
The strategy intends to boost the number of visitors to the bloc to 128.7 million visitors by 2030. That is up from 39.8 million last year, which was an increase of about 137 percent compared with 2021.
The total number of hotels in the region stood at 10,649 by the end of last year, recording a growth of 1.2 percent, compared with 2016.
The new programme is expected to be a game-changer for the region, according to industry operators.
There is an untapped market for tourism in the GCC bloc, with many travellers put off by visa restrictions that made reaching some nations difficult, they said.
A single GCC tourism visa will be a fantastic development for tourism in the region, making it more attractive for visitors and businesses.