The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states are forging ahead with plans to establish a unified visa system aimed at bolstering regional tourism. This transformative initiative was discussed during the recent ‘Future Hospitality Summit‘ in Abu Dhabi, where Abdulla bin Touq, the UAE‘s Minister of Economy, unveiled plans to introduce the system in the near future.
Bin Touq articulated the vision, stating, “Hopefully, we are going to see something akin to a pan-GCC visa, which will facilitate smoother movement of people within the GCC. A resident of Saudi Arabia, for instance, can enter the UAE and vice versa. I believe that’s the direction we envision for the future of GCC tourism.”
Currently, citizens of GCC countries enjoy “visa-free travel” to Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar. However, expatriates residing in these nations are obliged to apply for separate visas when visiting fellow member states. While certain nationalities may have the privilege of visa-free entry or obtaining visas upon arrival, the process remains fragmented.
This visionary effort aligns with discussions held earlier this year, as Bahrain’s Minister of Tourism, Fatima Al Sairafi, confirmed that the GCC nations were actively exploring the launch of a ‘Schengen-style’ visa for tourists. Such a visa system would significantly simplify the entry process for visitors, making it more convenient for them to explore multiple GCC countries seamlessly.
The proposed common visa system marks a significant stride towards enhancing regional tourism by eliminating bureaucratic hurdles and fostering greater interconnectivity among the GCC states. As these plans evolve, they hold the potential to elevate the Gulf region’s standing as a premier tourism destination, attracting visitors from across the globe.