In a significant development, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has approved a unified tourist visa that will allow visitors to travel freely between all six GCC countries, and it is on track to potentially launch as early as next year.
The proposal, which resembles the Schengen-style visa system in Europe, aims to simplify travel for tourists across the GCC region.
The process of implementing this game-changing visa is set to be discussed in the coming month, according to Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the Minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as reported by the state news agency Wam.
Explaining the Unified GCC Visa
The unified GCC tourist visa, which was approved during a meeting of GCC ministers in Muscat, will grant tourists access to all six GCC member countries. These countries include the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.
With a single visa, tourists will have the freedom to explore the diverse landscapes and cultures of the entire GCC bloc.
Timeline for Implementation
While the exact launch date of the unified GCC tourist visa is still pending, Al Marri expects it to be rolled out either in 2024 or 2025. The timeline largely depends on the finalization of the rules and regulations required for its successful implementation.
How Does It Work?
Once a tourist has obtained a unified GCC tourist visa, they can travel freely between all six GCC countries without having to obtain separate visas. The visa is valid for a certain period of time, depending on the country that issued it.
Benefits of the Unified GCC Tourist Visa
The unified GCC tourist visa is expected to have a number of benefits for both tourists and the GCC countries. For tourists, it will make it easier and more convenient to travel to multiple GCC countries during a single trip. For the GCC countries, it is expected to boost tourism and economic growth.
Other Key Points
1. The GCC countries are also studying a unified tourist route that connects all six countries. This route will be followed by foreign tourists whose stay extends for over 30 days.
2. Tourism is one of the major contributors to the UAE’s economy, accounting for 14% of its GDP. The UAE aims to increase the contribution of this sector to 18%.
3. Hoteliers and travel industry executives believe that the unified GCC tourist visa will be a game changer for the sector and the overall economies of the GCC countries.
A: The eligibility criteria for the unified GCC tourist visa are currently being finalized by the GCC countries. However, it is expected that most nationalities will be eligible to apply for the visa.
A: The cost of the unified GCC tourist visa has not yet been announced. However, it is expected to be similar to the cost of the individual tourist visas that are currently issued by the GCC countries.
A: The process for applying for the unified GCC tourist visa is also being finalized. However, it is expected that tourists will be able to apply for the visa online or through the embassies and consulates of the GCC countries.
A: No, the unified GCC tourist visa is only valid for tourism purposes. Tourists who wish to work in any of the GCC countries will need to apply for a separate work visa.