Muscat: The GCC countries are working towards introducing a common visa system that will ease travel and give a boost to regional tourism. The disclosure was made by the UAE’s Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq at the ongoing Future Hospitality Summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
He said the UAE government was planning to launch a system very soon that will allow people to travel freely within the region under a single visa which is aimed as an impetus towards the tourism sector.
Abdulla bin Touq said, “Hopefully, we are going to see something around a pan-GCC visa, which will allow easier mobility of people within the GCC.
He was speaking at a conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. The regime could be introduced "very soon,” he said.
Currently, citizens of the GCC are free to travel across borders without applying for visas, while expatriates need visas to cross GCC borders.
The concerned authorities are currently in talks to launch a ‘Schengen-style’ entry system, which will facilitate entry into all partner countries with one visa," said Fatima al Sairafi, Minister of Tourism, Kingdom of Bahrain, earlier this year.
On the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Meet (ATM), Sairafi said, “We have a huge opportunity, the effort is in how to unify all the countries in the GCC. Bahrain had 9.9 million visitors in 2022. One key initiative that we started in 2022 was to co-promote Bahrain as a unified destination with the GCC. If all the GCC countries unified their efforts in promotion, the opportunities would be incredible.”
Of late, the GCC countries have implied the visa procedures for GCC residents who can avail of Visa on Arrival or E-visa.
According to a source in the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), "Such a visa is a need of the hour because tourism cannot be promoted in isolation. It is in the largest interest to share the economic benefits with member countries. There is no need for tourists to spend for separately for visas when each of these countries are connected by land or within a few minutes of flight times."
He hoped that there would be some real progress because all countries have equally simplified their visa process in recent times allowing the population in these countries to travel freely and even at short notice.
Abdullah Al Saleh, the undersecretary at UAE Minister of Economy, said at ATM, "GCC countries believe that if they provide a good experience for visitors especially long-distance visitors coming to this region, instead of visiting one country, there will be a program to maximize their visits to more than one country in the region. The visitors will be happier by visiting several countries without restrictions, facilitating cross borders travel, and having unified one package to visit different countries in GCC."
He said a unified GCC tourism strategy has been devised to increase the contribution of the sector to the GCC GDP, bolster the employment of nationals, and boost competitiveness.