GCC states plan Schengen-style visa for the region

GCC states plan Schengen-style visa for the region

The move is part of a unified destination strategy

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) held in Dubai last week, Bahrain’s Minister of Tourism Fatima Al Sairafi said that GCC member states were discussing plans to introduce a Schengen-style visa for tourists covering the Gulf region.

Sairafi said: “When we announced our five-year strategy, leading up to 2026, our KPI for 2022 tourist numbers was set at 8.3 million – but 9.9 million tourists came. The initiative was to co-promote Bahrain with other GCC countries, starting with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

"We noticed that co-promoting Bahrain as a unified destination resulted in increased footfall in the country, along with an increase in the diversity of nationalities coming.”

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Commenting on the kingdom’s use of the tagline ‘Welcome to Arabia’, Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin said: “We look at tourism as a region and not as a country. World travellers look at the region as a whole, and that’s how we should think as well. [The] success of each complements the other, like a tide that lifts all ships.”

Once the GCC visa system is finalised, nationals from 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 will also be able to travel visa-free, just like nationals, to all the countries under the GCC.

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