Unified GCC tourist visa: System will be in place by end of 2024, UAE official says

Work is underway for packages to serve entire region and alignment of large events and e-service is a vital part of it

by

Waheed Abbas

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Published: Mon 6 May 2024, 2:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 May 2024, 11:04 PM

The system to launch the unified GCC tourist visa will be put in place by the end of the year by the regional countries, said Khalid Jasim Al Midfa of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Authority (SCTDA) at the Arabian Travel Market on Monday.

“By the end of this year, the whole system will be in place. (We) are working day and night and e-service is a vital part of it. We don’t want to complicate things for people and also maintain the same security level. It will be a very good initiative and we will see a positive outcome for regional economies,” Al Midfa said during the panel discussion by the regional tourism chief.


Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, UAE’s Minister of Economy, said the regional tourist visas would be called GCC Grand Tours and it will allow tourists to spend more than 30 days in the six countries that make up the GCC. "This will make travel to our region more convenient and affordable for tourists.”

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“Once it comes into effect, it will contribute to highlighting the diverse tourism destinations in GCC countries, attracting and retaining tourists for longer periods, thus increasing the number of hotel guests and making the region one of the leading destinations for regional and international tourists alike,” Al Marri said after attending a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh on April 28 and 29.

Packages, aligning biggest events

Al Midfa said the UAE and other Gulf countries are working with large tourist operators, and companies to roll out packages that take care of the entire region.

He added that talks are underway with hotels and airlines to create partnerships. “As government, we create the right platform that enables them to create business. So work closely with the private sector we make it happen.”

He added that once the GCC single tourist visa is rolled out, companies and tourist operators will automatically roll out combined packages.

He added that as part of the single tourism GCC, the aim is to extend the length of stay of visitors in UAE. “People don’t go to the US for 2 nights. People go for leisure travel for 2-3 weeks and we want to combine the packages here within the GCC and make it easy and buy a package. We may need to align some of the biggest events in order to work out the timing so that there is no overlapping.”

He revealed that both leisure and business travel packages will be rolled out by the private sector once a single tourist visa has been launched.

Sarah Buhijji, CEO of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, added that Bahrain is also working on packages for the entire region. “Visitors can come to Bahrain and stay 3 nights, then go to Oman and Saudi. We are promoting the entire region as one package. We have signed an MoU with Saudi Arabia to promote two countries as one destination and we are doing it with the rest of the regional countries,” she added.

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