GCC 30 day travel visa
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News

Dubai: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) unified Gulf tourist visa – to be named the ‘GCC Grand Tours’ – will allow travellers to visit all six GCC states and spend more than 30 days in the region, UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri announced Monday on the opening day of the Arabian Travel Market.

He said, “In a significant move aimed at simplifying travel logistics and fostering tourism, the Gulf Cooperation Council has given the green light to a unified tourist visa that will allow travellers to visit all six countries. Through the GCC Grand Tours, that we are working on and aiming to finish, will allow tourists to spend more than 30 days in the region.”

UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri
UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

According to the Minister, this will make travel to the region more convenient and affordable for tourists. It will also increase activity and employment numbers in the region, explained the Minister.


Rollout planned by end-2024

While the Minister did not state an official rollout date for the GCC unified visa, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Authority (SCTDA), who was also speaking at the conference, said the “system should be in place by the end of the year.”

“By the end of this year, the whole system should be in place. Many people and teams, led by the Ministry of Economy in the UAE and other ministries in other countries, are working on it tirelessly to make it happen in the best possible way, emphasizing digital transformation,” said Al Midfa.

“E-services are also vital to this effort because we want to make it easy, avoiding unnecessary complications. Simultaneously, we aim to maintain all the security measures. We share many common security measures (with Saudi Arabia) that will facilitate obtaining a UAE or GCC visa for all GCC countries,” he added. Al Midfa said the region has huge tourism potential and each countries’ tourism boards are working hard to convert it into ‘materialistic economic value’.

"I believe it will be a positive initiative, leading to significant contributions to our regional GDP within the next eight to 10 years," said AlMidfa.

The senior Sharjah government leader said that MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) sector would also contribute tremendously towards visitor growth.

‘Unlike the Schengen visa’

According to AlMidfa, the objectives of GCC-wide tourism are unlike those of the Schengen visa, which were ‘socio-political or socio-economic’. “Here, tourism is driving the initiative. So, we have to structure it differently for people to access GCC countries,” he said.

As business travel entails a higher spend per person than leisure travellers, typically three times more, the packages offered to travellers seeking a GCC-wide travel experience must promote a diverse portfolio. AlMidfa suggested offering multiple leisure and business packages.

Tourism’s contribution to GDP

Al-Marri also said that in 2021, international spending in the GCC will capture 35 per cent of the market. “The travellers' footprint across our lands contributed $109 billion to the total GDP of the GCC economies, highlighting a robust rebound and potential that tourism holds as a cornerstone for economic development,” he said.

He also said that in 2023, the UAE’s tourism sector has surpassed expectations. The Minister cited the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) research and stated that travel and tourism contributed 11.7 per cent to the UAE’s GDP last year, amounting to Dh220 billion. “The forecast is set even higher, with an anticipated contribution of 12 per cent to our GDP, equating to Dh236 billion,” he added.

“I believe that our regional ambitions should not be to recover to pre-pandemic benchmarks but exceed them merely,” said Al Marri.