The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is set to introduce a Schengen-style, unified visa for tourists and businessmen from 35 foreign and Arab countries, following discussions at the ongoing Arabian Travel Market at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The unified visa system aims to boost tourism and facilitate travel within the region.
Bahrain’s Tourism Minister, Fatima Al Sairafi, was quoted by regional media as saying that discussions are underway among GCC nations at the ministerial level on how to achieve such a visa.
“We see that happening very soon because we see people flying from abroad to Europe usually spending their time in several countries rather than in one country. We really saw the value this can bring not to each country but all of us,” Al Sairafi said.
Once the system is finalised, nationals from the 35 countries would be able to visit the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman under a single visa. With the provision of a unified visa, GCC residents would also be able to travel visa-free, just like nationals, to all the countries under the Council.
These comments were reportedly made by the spokespeople during a panel discussion on “The Future of Travel for the GCC”.
Samira Al Gharib, assistant undersecretary for tourism at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Trade, stated that plans for a “unified tourism visa” are being considered by GCC Interior ministries, which will be responsible for visa-related formalities.
“The unified visa targets frequent visitors to the GCC,” she said. However, Al-Gharib denied that the new visa system would be implemented by next year, citing many hurdles to be overcome ahead of the new proposal.
Al Gharib confirmed that the new visa system would generate significant revenues within the regional tourism sector, with visas mostly sought for leisure and not work-related purposes. (gulfnews.com)