Visa holders will be able to travel across the six Gulf countries
The UAE’s Minister of Economy Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri has issued a statement confirming the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will roll out a unified Gulf tourist visa within the next two years.
The unified visa will allow destination management companies and travel agents to create exciting multi-country travel itineraries showcasing the very best of what the GCC region has to offer, from twin-centre stays in Saudi's heritage sites in AlUla and the UAE's gallery-rich Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, to mountainous adventures across Oman's Six Senses Zighy Bay and the UAE's outdoor playground Ras Al Khaimah.
The tourism sector's current contribution to the UAE's GDP stands at 14%, with aspirations to raise this figure to 18% to fulfil the nation's strategic tourism objectives.
In the statement, the minister said that specific regulations and legislation for the visa will be developed with a targeted rollout between 2024 and 2025, subject to the readiness of each GCC country's internal systems.
Al Marri added: "This initiative is an integral part of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, designed to elevate the tourism sector's contribution to the GDP through increased inter-GCC travel and elevated hotel occupancy rates, transforming the GCC into a pre-eminent global destination for both regional and international tourists."
Al Marri also emphasised that GCC countries possess sophisticated and qualified travel and tourism infrastructure. As of the end of 2022, the GCC boasted a total of 10,649 hotels, marking a 1.2% growth compared to 2016.
Within the GCC, the UAE alone has 1,114 hotels, ranking second in the GCC after Saudi Arabia. The total number of hotel rooms in the GCC reached 674,832.
Al Marri stated that the GCC joint tourism strategy for 2023 to 2030 targets an annual increase of 7% in inbound trips to GCC countries. The number of visitors to GCC countries reached 39.8 million last year, showing a 137% growth compared to 2021, with a target of reaching 128.7 million visitors by 2030.