GCC Summit approves unified tourist visa

The 44th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit held last week in the Qatari capital Doha, approved among others the unified Gulf tourist visa, which will grant travelers entry to all six countries in the GCC block with one visa.

Announcing the new decision, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khatib, stated that the GCC leaders had instructed their respective Ministers of Interior to take appropriate measures for implementation of the new visa scheme. Describing the decision as historic, Al-Khatib said that the step demonstrates the commitment of GCC states to strengthening cooperation and deepening ties in tourism and other fields.

He added that adoption of the unified Gulf tourist visa aligns with the ongoing development and progress experienced by the GCC countries in various sectors, and that the move will enhance the global standing of the Gulf countries as an attractive tourist destination. Al-Khatib explained that the unified tourist visa would facilitate the movement of tourists and visitors between member states, thereby boosting the role of tourism as a driver of economic growth and creating new investment opportunities in the tourism sector for each country.

He indicated that the Saudi Ministry of Tourism is committed to cooperating with its counterparts in other GCC countries to ensure the smooth implementation and coordination of this initiative, so as to serve the tourism and economic sectors in the region. It is noteworthy that the unified visa system is one of the outcomes from the milestone adoption of the Gulf Strategy for Tourism by the GCC tourism ministers at their meeting in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia in November of last year.

Speaking earlier about the unified Gulf visa, the UAE Minister of Economy, Abdullah bin Touq, said the focus of the scheme is on attracting tourists and encouraging them to stay in the Gulf countries for longer periods, thus promoting economic integration within the region.

He added that the unified visa scheme aims to increase inbound tourist spending at an annual growth rate of 8 percent. Travel industry data shows that tourism revenue, which is projected to reach around US$97 billion by the end of 2023 — a growth of 12.8 percent compared to 2022 — is expected to $188 billion by 2030.

The approval of the unified Gulf tourist visa underscores the commitment of the GCC countries to advancing regional tourism and positioning the Gulf as an attractive destination for international visitors. It is expected to stimulate economic growth, enhance cooperation, and contribute to the overall development of the region’s tourism sector.

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