GCC Countries to Introduce Unified Tourist Visa
The GCC countries have agreed to introduce a joint tourist visa that will be similar to the Schengen visa. The visa will enable travelers to travel across all six member states, i.e., Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE's Minister of Economy announced the introduction of the unified visa during the 40th meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council interior ministers in Muscat.
Further details of the visa will be discussed soon, while the unified GCC visa is planned to be introduced between 2024 and 2025. The official launch date is unknown yet.
According to the GCC Secretary General, the new visa can attract a number of foreign visitors and reinforce trade between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Facilitating travel between GCC nations
The unified GCC visa is aimed at easily traveling to all 6 GCC countries. At the moment, tourists to these countries must follow certain visa requirements that may differ depending on the country.
The new visa is supposed to work in a similar way to the Schengen visa, which permits travelers to travel between all 27 Schengen Area member countries under only one permit.
The UAE authorities are also considering the introduction of a tourism route that would connect all seven emirates, but no details have been revealed so far.
Effects of the pandemic and tourism in Gulf Countries
The Middle East was the first region around the globe to return to pre-pandemic tourism in the Q1 of 2023. There was a growth of 136% in tourism arrivals in GCC countries in 2022 if comparing to 2021.
For example, Dubai attracted 8.55 million foreign travelers in the first half of 2023 alone, which was even more than before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, tourism in the UAE accounts for 14% of GDP, and the country aims to increase it to 18%.
The new unified visa is supposed to revolutionize tourism but also offer new job opportunities for foreigners wishing to live and work in the GCC countries.