According to the UAE’s Minister of Economy, a single, unified tourist visa system that would streamline travel throughout the GCC and increase tourism among the Gulf states is anticipated to be implemented within the next two years.
According to official news agency Wam, the last meeting of GCC tourism ministers held in Oman “unanimously” backed its adoption and it will be presented at the upcoming GCC summit.
“Specific regulations and legislation for the visa will be developed, with a targeted roll-out between 2024 and 2025, subject to the readiness of each GCC country’s internal systems,” Mr bin Touq said.
“This new visa will open doors to travelers, granting them access to six countries under a single, unified tourist visa, ultimately fostering economic synergy across the Gulf region.”
The minister added that with the implementation of the unified visa, the UAE is preparing to welcome a flood of foreign tourists.
The minister said that a tourist route connecting each of the seven emirates has been created by the Emirates Tourism Council.
Despite ongoing global economic challenges, the Middle East’s tourism industry has experienced the strongest post-pandemic recovery worldwide, according to HSBC.
According to the bank’s research report published in August, the region, which is home to the two largest Arab economies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is exceptional in that it had a “total recovery” in visitor arrivals during the first quarter of 2023.
Mr. Bin Touq emphasized that the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, which aims to increase the sector’s economic contribution through more inter-GCC travel and higher hotel occupancy rates, includes the unified visa proposal as a key component.
By 2030, the policy wants to increase international travel to GCC nations to 128.7 million travelers. That is an increase from last year’s 39.8 million, which was a 136.6 percent rise from 2021.
The minister also said that the GCC countries have “sophisticated and qualified travel and tourism infrastructure”.
The total number of hotels in the region reached 10,649 by the end of last year, recording a growth of 1.2 percent compared with 2016. According to Mr. Bin Touq, the UAE alone has 1,114 hotels, placing it second in the region behind Saudi Arabia.