GCC 'Grand Tours' visa: For Dh4,000, visitors can soon explore multiple Gulf countries

The visa will be similar to Schengen visa, allowing access to all six Gulf countries

by

Waheed Abbas

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Published: Mon 13 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 13 May 2024, 10:20 PM

Travel agencies in the UAE and abroad are all set to roll out packages for tourists visiting the Gulf region ahead of the launch of the unified GCC tourist visa or GCC 'Grand Tours' visa.

Travel and tourism industry executives said packages, which will include a couple of night stays, travel and sightseeing in three countries in the region, could cost visitors around Dh4,000-Dh5,000 and above.


During a ministerial discussion at the Arabian Travel Market last week, officials said the 'GCC Grand Tours' visa could be in place by the end of this year. The multi-entry visa will be similar to Schengen visa allowing access to all six Gulf countries.

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Rehan Asad, vice-president for global markets at Expedia, said the unified GCC tourist visa is a positive change for the region.

He said when Europe launched the Schengen visa, it amplified the region’s tourism sector and allowed people seamless access to several countries.

“People from the UAE love to travel to Saudi Arabia and Oman, and vice-versa, hence, this new visa will drive intra-country traffic and boost tourism further.”

The Expedia V-P said they have conducted research to assess people's needs.

"People want convenience during the GCC tour. We found out that children aged 8-14 play a critical role in deciding a family's destination and hotel stay. We have conducted a research among a population of 10 million people and will be rolling out packages based on people's needs. It will be a combined hotels, cars and tour activities package,” he said.

Stating that their "initial focus will be the UAE followed by Saudi Arabia", Asad said the packages will be “dynamic and not pre-bundled” and people will have several options to choose from.

Welcoming the unified GCC tourist visa, Anas Anane, associate executive at Traveazy, said the visa will be a huge advantage for the travel and tourism sector.

“The tour packages will start from Dh1,500 per person for one country, including flights and sightseeing. The cost will also depend on the peak or off-peak tourist season in the GCC countries.”

He said the packages would approximately cost Dh4,000-Dh5,000 for a couple of days' stay each in UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, covering flights, hotels, transfer and excursions in select countries.

Dubai in focus

Mohammed Farooz, executive secretary at Last Minute Tourism, said many companies are already working out tour packages. “We will have a package for Dubai, Oman and Qatar in a couple of months. This will include three nights each in Dubai and Oman; or three nights each in Dubai and Qatar. People who will buy our packages will first land in Dubai and then move on to next destinations in the region,” he said.

Farooz said bundle offers are going to be 25 per cent cheaper than regular packages.

Ross Veitch, chief executive officer and co-founder of Wego, said the unified GCC tourist visa will be a big incentive for inbound tourism and also for residents of the regional countries.

“The unified GCC visa will make the region even more popular, especially among the Chinese inbound visitors, in the same manner we have seen in Europe and Southeast Asia. It is common among Chinese visitors to land in Bangkok, and spend a few days in Thailand, followed by a few days each in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. I think tourists will do the same in this region with the unified tourist visa. They can land in Jeddah, then come to Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, and then return home,” said Veitch.

He said people are increasingly mixing business and leisure travel in the post-Covid period and that the trend will gain momentum once the unified GCC tourist visa is in place.

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