Schengen-style unified visa to boost Gulf tourism on the cards

Jeddah: In a move to further boost economic growth of the region, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are likely to launch a Unified Gulf visa similar to Schengen-style visa for tourists, according to Oman’s minister of tourism.

GCC member states include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar. Soon travellers to any of these countries can visit other countries in the region with a single visa.

GCC ministers of tourism have unanimously approved a unified Gulf visa and sought feedback on the same by December, Oman’s news agency ONA reported.

Common Gulf visa soon

“The common tourism visa for the Gulf Cooperation Council is coming very soon,” Salim Mohammed al Mahrouqi, Oman minister of heritage and tourism, said as the sultanate chaired the seventh meeting of GCC ministers of tourism on Thursday.

“There is unanimous agreement, in terms of the importance of this matter. There will be a number of follow-up meetings to see how we can proceed on this to reach a full agreement on it,” the minister added.

Stressing on the meeting’s goal, Mahrouqi said it was to enhance cooperation and facilitate tourism development. “We aim to uplift the GCC’s tourism status, enrich our national economies and meet our people’s aspirations.”

The meeting also discussed the development of a GCC Tourism Statistics Platform. In a significant resolution, the ministers approved the Gulf Strategy for Tourism 2023-2030 and agreed to ensure an effective rollout monitored via regular reports.

Tourism growth

Addressing the potential of tourism in the Gulf peninsula, Jassim Mohammed al Budaiwi, GCC Secretary-General, said, “It is emerging as a robust economic and social sector, capable of steering sustainable development.”

He highlighted the fact that 17 landmarks from GCC states are currently listed as Unesco World Heritage sites.

Furnishing statistics, Budaiwi informed that a record 39.8 million tourists visited the GCC in 2022, a notable 136.6% increase from the previous year, while tourist spending surged to USD 85.9 billion, marking a 101.2% growth. Intra-GCC tourism made up 29.7% of the total tourist numbers, a growth of 98.8% compared to 2021.

Strategy ahead

Looking ahead, the GCC Tourism Strategy aims for ambitious growth to increase tourist numbers by 7% annually till 2030. It includes enhancing inbound tourist spending by 8% and domestic tourist expenditure by 2.4% in this period. An essential goal is to bolster the direct GDP by 7% annually until 2030.

Providing further insights, Ahmed Aqeel al Khatib, Saudi Minister of Tourism, emphasised a joint vision. “We’re considering establishing a unified Gulf statistics centre and a common tourist visa system. With coordinated efforts, the GCC is poised to capture a significant share of the global travel market.”

Closing the meeting, a proposal titled ‘Our Gulf, the Birthplace of Civilisations’ was tabled aiming for member states to finalise their contributions by the end of 2023, ONA reported.

This post was last modified on October 8, 2023 8:24 pm

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