Image Courtesy: WAM

Islamic Lifestyle

GCC ministers agree to introducing unified tourist visa

A unified Gulf tourist visa is to be introduced within the next two years, as the GCC region aims to bolster inbound tourist spending to $188 billion by the end of the decade.

Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s minister of economy, said that the visa, which will allow holders to travel across six Gulf countries – Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE – will be introduced between 2024 and the following year. 

In comments to the UAE state agency WAM, the minister said that specific regulations and legislation for the visa will be developed, with the rollout subject to the readiness of each GCC country. 

The seventh meeting of GCC tourism ministers in Oman unanimously endorsed the visa rollout, he added. 

GCC countries aim to increase inbound tourist spending by 8% annually. It is expected to total $96.9 billion by the end of the current year, up 12.8% on 2022.

"This initiative is an integral part of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, designed to elevate the tourism sector's contribution to the GDP through increased inter-GCC travel and elevated hotel occupancy rates, transforming the GCC into a pre-eminent global destination for both regional and international tourists," the minister added.

As of the end of 2022, the GCC had 10,649 hotels and 674,832 keys. 

The number of inbound visitors to the region totalled 39.8 million last year, up 136.6% on 2021, with an aim to reach 128.7 million by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, the region’s travel and tourism sector is set to contribute $185.9 billion to its GDP this year, 8.5% higher than 2022. 

The region has 837 tourist sites, of which the UAE hosts 399.