In the Next Two Years, Unified Gulf Tourist Visa to Enable Travel Across GCC Countries…
Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the Minister of Economy, revealed this development during the seventh gathering of GCC tourism ministers in Oman, where they unanimously supported the forthcoming presentation of the unified Gulf tourist visa at the upcoming GCC summit.
In a statement provided to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), the minister expressed that they intend to create dedicated regulations and legislation for this visa, with a planned introduction between 2024 and 2025, contingent upon the preparedness of each GCC country’s internal systems.
Al-Marri emphasized that this innovative visa will unlock opportunities for travelers, affording them entry to six nations through a single, harmonized tourist visa, ultimately stimulating economic cooperation throughout the Gulf region.
He mentioned that the UAE is gearing up to embrace the influx of international tourists through the launch of the unified visa. The minister explained that the Emirates Tourism Council has devised a tourist itinerary that seamlessly connects all seven emirates within the UAE. This strategic step positions the UAE to be prepared and ready for seamless integration with the GCC upon fully implementing the unified tourist visa. This, in turn, introduces an appealing new tourism offering to attract international visitors to the Arabian Gulf region.
“This initiative is an integral component of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, aiming to enhance the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP by fostering increased inter-GCC travel and bolstering hotel occupancy rates. The goal is to position the GCC as a leading global destination for regional and international tourists,” added the UAE Minister.
The tourism sector currently contributes 14 percent to the UAE’s GDP, with ambitions to elevate this figure to 18 percent in alignment with the nation’s strategic tourism objectives.
Al-Marri also underscored that the GCC countries possess well-developed and expertly managed travel and tourism infrastructure. By the end of 2022, the GCC could boast 10,649 hotel establishments, reflecting a 1.2 percent increase since 2016. Within the GCC, the UAE alone features 1,114 hotel establishments, ranking second in the GCC, following Saudi Arabia. The collective number of hotel rooms in the GCC has reached 674,832, showing a 0.4 percent growth.
He also mentioned that the GCC’s collaborative tourism strategy for 2023-2030 aims for an annual growth of seven percent in inbound trips to GCC countries. Last year, the number of visitors to GCC countries reached 39.8 million, reflecting a remarkable 136.6 percent increase compared to 2021, with the ambitious goal of getting 128.7 million visitors by 2030.
As well as, the GCC nations aspire to achieve an annual 8.0 percent increase in the spending of inbound tourists. Projections indicate that this spending will reach $96.9 billion by the close of 2023, reflecting a 12.8 percent growth compared to 2022. The long-term goal is to attain $188 billion by 2030.
He clarified that the GCC countries are striving for a yearly seven percent boost in the direct GDP contribution of the travel and tourism sector.
Anticipations suggest that the total value added to the GDP of the GCC countries’ travel and tourism sector will reach $185.9 billion in 2023, marking an 8.5 percent increase from the $171.4 billion achieved in 2022.
Al-Marri emphasized that the GCC collectively boasts 837 tourist sites; notably, the UAE stands out as the leader within the GCC with 399 of these sites. Furthermore, the UAE takes the lead in hosting most of the events and tourist activities in the GCC, accounting for 73 out of the 224 total tourist events in the Gulf region.