The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are now a step closer to launching a unified tourist visa, similar to the Schengen visa that allows tourists to travel freely between several European countries.
This is a major development for the region’s tourism sector, as it will make it much easier and more convenient for visitors to explore multiple GCC countries during a single trip.
In a unanimous decision, the GCC ministers gathered in Muscat, where Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi, Oman’s Minister of Heritage and Tourism, announced the approval of the unified visa.
What is a unified GCC visa?
A unified GCC visa would allow tourists to visit all six GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) with a single visa. This would eliminate the need for tourists to obtain separate visas for each country they wish to visit.
How will the unified GCC visa help tourism in the region?
The unified GCC visa is expected to boost tourism in the region in a number of ways;
First, it will make it easier and more convenient for tourists to visit multiple GCC countries during a single trip. This is likely to attract more long-haul tourists to the region, as they will be able to see more of what the GCC has to offer without having to go through the hassle of applying for multiple visas.
Second, the unified GCC visa is expected to increase the length of stay of tourists in the region. This is because tourists will be able to visit multiple countries without having to worry about their visas expiring. This is likely to lead to increased tourist spending, as tourists will have more time to explore the region and experience its many attractions.
When will the unified GCC visa be launched?
The exact launch date for the unified GCC visa has not yet been announced.
However, Omani media has quoted Minister Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi as saying that the scheme will be launched “very soon.” It is expected that the visa will be presented at a meeting of regional interior ministers in November 2023.
What will the unified GCC visa scheme entail?
Once implemented, the unified GCC visa scheme could see GCC countries carry out joint publicity campaigns to promote tourism in the region. Officials have also spoken about having a common booking platform and a joint tourism website.
Can residents of GCC countries apply for the unified GCC visa?
Citizens of GCC countries currently enjoy visa-free travel between the member states. It is not yet clear whether expatriates residing in these countries will be able to apply for the unified GCC visa once it is implemented.
However, in September 2023, Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy, said that the GCC is considering a single visa system that will see its residents travel freely between member states.
How many countries can one visit with a unified GCC visa?
Visa holders would be able to visit all six GCC countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.
What will be the cost and duration of the unified GCC visa?
The price and validity of the unified GCC visa have not yet been revealed. More details are expected to be announced by the end of the year.
The launch of the unified GCC visa is a major development for the region’s tourism sector. It is expected to make it easier and more convenient for tourists to visit multiple GCC countries during a single trip, which is likely to boost tourism in the region.
More details about the visa, such as its cost, validity, and eligibility criteria, are expected to be announced by the end of the year.