GCC bloc adopts integrated visa system to explore untapped tourism market

A general view of Downtown Dubai showing the world's tallest building Burj Al Khalifa on December 31, 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  - Reuters
A general view of Downtown Dubai showing the world’s tallest building Burj Al Khalifa on December 31, 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. – Reuters

The proposed integrated tourist visa system for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – was unanimously accepted, creating a new vision for the critically important economic sector. The era began. Area.

GCC Secretary-General Jassim Al Budawi announced the system at the 40th meeting of GCC Interior Ministers in Oman on November 9 (Thursday), which is expected to be implemented in the six-nation grouping between 2024 and 2025.

He said the decision is expected to streamline travel logistics and underpin “constant communication and coordination” between GCC states. National informed of.

“The Integrated Gulf Tourist Visa is a project that will contribute to facilitating and streamlining the movement of residents and tourists between the six GCC countries and will, undoubtedly, have a positive impact.” [impact] on the economic and tourism sectors,” Al Budawi said.

“To contribute to the fight against.” [its] Curse,” Al Budawi said, adding that the Council also approved electronically linking traffic offenses between GCC states and is currently developing a comprehensive strategy to combat illicit narcotics.

Recently, UAE Minister of Economy Abdullah bin Touq highlighted the integrated visa as a key component of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, which aims to boost the region’s economic contribution through increased regional travel and higher hotel occupancy rates. To promote.

The UAE aims to increase its number of visitors to 128.7 million by 2030, a 137% increase from the 39.8 million recorded in 2021.

The total number of hotels in the region reached 10,649 by the end of last year, an increase of 1.2% from 2016. According to Bin Touq, the UAE, with 1,114 hotels, is second in the region after Saudi Arabia.

The Middle East’s tourism sector has posted the strongest post-coronavirus rebound globally with an “overall recovery” in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2023, despite global economic challenges, particularly in Saudi Arabia’s Arab economies, according to HSBC. has experienced. United Arab Emirates.

Industry operators predict a significant tourism program in the GCC block, highlighting an untapped market due to visa restrictions that have hindered travelers from accessing some countries.

Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths explained that a single GCC tourist visa would be a “fantastic development” for tourism in the region, making it more attractive to visitors and businesses. National Last week.

“The more cities we have on the tourism map that encourage people to travel to the Middle East, the better the world’s perception of the region will be,” Griffiths said.

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