The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are exploring the option to launch a ‘Schengen-style” visa for tourists. It will make easy for visitors to enter the Gulf countries and spend vacations there.
The development was confirmed by Fatima Al Sairafi, Minister of Tourism in Bahrain. He said discussions have been taking place at the ministerial level among GCC nations on how to achieve a unified single visa.
Speaking during the Arabian Travel Market (ATM 2023) in Dubai, she said that the unified visa system could be happening very soon. Citing the example of Europe, the minister said the benefits of such a visa regime are available to all of the countries. She said that Bahrain has benefited from co-promoting the country along with the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
The Minister of Tourism in Bahrain, Fatima Al Sairafi made the announcement during the Arabian Travel Market conference. She stated that there are plans to implement a Schengen-style visa among GCC countries 👏#lovindubai pic.twitter.com/MoFUroyvS9
— Lovin Dubai | لوڤن دبي (@lovindubai) May 3, 2023
“We targeted 8.3 million tourists for 2022 but achieved 9.9 million visitors because we co-promoted Bahrain along with the UAE and other GCC markets. It resulted in an increased number of tourists. When we co-promoted at a unified destination through 100-plus tour operators, the footfall also increased. The diversity of nationalities of tourists also increased,” she said.
Moreover, the Minister stressed that apart from registering a higher number of visitors, they also witnessed a “diversity of nationalities of tourists”, suggesting that travelers from all over the world reached the GCC countries.
Bahrain's #Tourism Minister Fatima bint Jafar Al Sairafi met with the UAE Minister of #Economy Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri in #AbuDhabi. The two ministers discussed cooperation between both countries and overall issues pertaining to developing the tourism sector. pic.twitter.com/UvnDKQFgbN
— UAE-Israel Business Council (@UAEIsraelBiz) February 8, 2023
Tourism vital to economic growth
Meanwhile, Abdullah Al Saleh, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Economy, said that all GCC countries believe that the tourism sector is important for the growth of their economies.
“We have one common market and unified policies. In the tourism sector, the GCC can benefit from both supply and demand sides by having umbrella regulations, policies, and procedures to facilitate growth. Now with increased flow of people among GCC, it is becoming smoother with time,” he said.
GCC Considers Schengen-Style Visa for Effortless Travel Across Partner Countries#FatimaAlSairafi #GCC #GCCTRAVEL #travelrules #KSA pic.twitter.com/RIBSy5udSl
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Joint offerings benefits
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of Saudi Tourism Authority, said that the Kingdom greatly benefited from Fifa World Cup in Qatar. This reflects that joint offerings can be promoted and benefit all.
The idea of the GCC countries to launch their own visa came as a result of the effective cross-collaboration between the Gulf during the last year’s global game of football.
Al Sairafi said that the day would come when tourists will say that they are going to GCC countries similar to how they are going to Europe, Asia and some other parts of the world.
Bahrain's tourism sector last year exceeded targets set under its 2022-26 tourism strategy, Tourism Minister Fatima bint Jaffer Al Sairafi has said, find out more at https://t.co/sj436GIESx#TTN #TourismSector #ExceedingExpectations #Bahrain pic.twitter.com/Q2YazW8mae
— Travel&Tourism News (@ttnworldwide) February 13, 2023
Details yet to be sorted
It bears mentioning that if the plan is implemented, the GCC countries would be treated like Schengen zone and make it easier for globetrotters to explore the region.
The Schengen zone was created in 1985 and allows people and goods to travel freely, usually without showing travel or customs documents. This creates opportunities for tourism-related revenue for countries and offers virtually no hurdle for travelers.
Nationals of EU countries are not only visa-exempt but are legally entitled to enter and reside within each other’s borders visa free. This freedom of movement can, however, be limited in rare cases, as stipulated by EU treaties. As far as GCC countries are concerned, the details regarding regulations are yet to be revealed.