• The unified visa will allow cross-border travel across the GCC region
  • Leaders of GCC nations are already in talks about implementing the visa
  • Plans to launch the visa were revealed during a panel discussion at the Arabian Travel Market 2023

Officials in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are planning to introduce a visa aimed to boost tourism across the region. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other members of the council are reportedly in talks to launch a Schengen-style, free-movement tourist visa, allowing free travel across all borders of the region.

Fatima Al Sairafi, Minister of Tourism in Bahrain, revealed during her speech at the Arabian Travel Market 2023 in Dubai that discussions have been underway at the ministerial level among GCC nations on how to implement the unified single visa. She also revealed that the plan will materialize "soon," making traveling to GCC similar to traveling to Europe, Khaleej Times reported.

"We see that happening very soon because we see people flying from abroad to Europe usually spending their time in several countries rather than in one country. We really saw the value this can bring not to each country but all of us," she said during the "Future of Travel for the GCC" panel discussion, adding that Bahrain has benefitted from being co-promoted with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

"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 and the diversity of nationalities of tourists also increased," she noted.

UAE's Foreign Trade and Industry Undersecretary Abdullah Al Saleh also supported the plan to implement a unified visa, saying GCC countries have a common market and unified policies. He also noted that the tourism industry is crucial 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.

Al Saleh also noted that visitors will be happier to visit countries in the region without restrictions. He also said that facilitating cross borders travel will work to the advantage of the GCC's tourism sector, as visitors will want to maximize their visits by traveling to more than one country in the region.

A picture taken on January 24, 2022 shows Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE which has come again under attack by Yemen's Huthi rebels
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