Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the Minister of Economy, announced that the tourism ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have given their approval for a unified Gulf tourist visa, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
This decision was reached during their seventh meeting held in the Sultanate of Oman.
Speaking to WAM, Al Marri stated that the next steps involve discussions regarding the implementation procedures for this visa.
These discussions will take place next month among the Ministers of the Interior of the GCC countries before being submitted for approval at the upcoming Gulf Summit.
Once approved, the unified Gulf tourist visa is expected to come into effect between 2024 and 2025, depending on each GCC country’s internal regulations.
This visa will allow its holders to visit six GCC countries, focusing on attracting and retaining tourists within the region to enhance economic integration.
Moreover, Al Marri said that the next phase involves the creation of a unified Gulf tourist route connecting GCC countries.
This route will be followed by foreign visitors with stays exceeding 30 days after the implementation of the unified Gulf tourist visa.
The Emirates Tourism Council has also been actively preparing an Emirati tourism route that links the seven emirates as part of their readiness for the Gulf connection under the unified Gulf tourist visa.
This initiative aims to offer a new tourism product to attract international tourists to the Arabian Gulf region.
This move aligns with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 2030 strategy, which seeks to increase the contribution of the tourism sector to the GDP.
The UAE’s tourism sector already contributes 14 percent to its GDP, with plans to increase this figure to 18 percent to meet its strategic tourism goals.
Al Marri highlighted that the GCC countries possess a developed and qualified infrastructure for the travel and tourism sectors.
The total number of hotel establishments in the region reached 10,649 by the end of 2022, with the UAE ranking second in the Gulf after Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, the total number of rooms in hotel establishments across the GCC reached 674,832 rooms.
The joint Gulf tourism strategy ‘2023-2030’ aims to increase the number of inbound flights to the GCC countries at an annual rate of 7.0 percent, with the goal of reaching 128.7 million visitors by 2030.
The countries also aim to increase the spending of incoming tourists at an annual growth rate of 8.0 percent, targeting $188 billion by 2030.
The travel and tourism sector’s direct GDP is expected to grow at an annual rate of 7 percent, with a total added value of $185.9 billion in 2023, an 8.5 percent increase compared to 2022.
The GCC countries collectively offer 837 tourist sites, with the UAE leading the region with 399 tourist sites and hosting 73 of the total 224 Gulf tourism events and activities.