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Gulf nations to launch Schengen-like visa system by late 2024, revolutionizing Middle East travel

Tue 14 May 2024    
| 2 min read

During the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, emphasized the necessity of regional cooperation to attract major events. He highlighted the potential for collaboration to organize an ‘Arabian tour’ that could entice globally renowned artists like Taylor Swift.

Hamidaddin also discussed the forthcoming “unified GCC visa,” a travel permit akin to Europe’s Schengen visa, enabling travelers to explore all six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member nations—Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman—for over 30 consecutive days. Although the launch date remains undisclosed, officials anticipate its introduction by late 2024.

Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s economy minister, described the visa as a significant step toward simplifying travel logistics and promoting tourism across the GCC. Plans include incorporating month-long “grand packages” into the marketing strategy to attract visitors.

The unified visa is poised to benefit the region’s cruise industry by eliminating the need for passengers to apply for visas at each port of call. Hamidaddin, also a member of Cruise Saudi’s board, highlighted substantial investments in cruise ships, ports, and terminals, anticipating a shift from Mediterranean to Red Sea cruises.

The Middle East has rapidly emerged as a formidable player in global tourism, epitomized by Dubai’s exponential growth, boasting more hotel rooms than Las Vegas. Similarly, Saudi Arabia, previously closed to leisure tourists, has become a tourism hub, attracting $800 billion in investment and achieving 100 million tourist visits ahead of schedule.

Qatar, with its recent record-breaking tourist arrivals, aims to leverage the unified visa to streamline travel bureaucracy and encourage longer stays, enhancing the region’s economic prospects. GCC tourism ministers anticipate the visa’s implementation to bolster individual and collective economies by facilitating seamless travel experiences and promoting exploration across the Gulf region.

Also read: Abu Dhabi announces new visa support for Indian destination weddings

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