The Minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, has announced that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will introduce a unified Gulf tourist visa in the next two years. This visa will allow holders to travel across the six Gulf countries, as reported by the UAE news agency, WAM, on Monday.
Al Marri stated that the seventh meeting of GCC tourism ministers in Oman unanimously supported its implementation to be presented at the upcoming GCC summit. In a statement, the minister pointed out that specific regulations and legislation for the visa will be developed, and it will come into effect between 2024 and 2025, subject to the readiness of each GCC country’s internal systems.
According to Al Marri, this new visa will open doors for travelers, granting them access to six countries under a single unified tourist visa, ultimately fostering economic synergy throughout the Gulf region.
In this regard, he mentioned that the UAE is gearing up to welcome a new influx of international tourists with the introduction of this unified visa. The UAE Tourism Council has outlined a tourist route within the country that connects all seven emirates. This strategic move prepares the UAE to embrace the new tourist visa, introducing a fresh and appealing tourism product to captivate international tourists in the Arabian Gulf region.
“This initiative is an integral part of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, designed to elevate the contribution of the tourism sector to the GDP through increased travel between GCC countries and high hotel occupancy rates, transforming the GCC into a global destination for both regional citizens and foreigners,” added the Emirati minister.
The current contribution of the tourism sector to the UAE’s GDP stands at 14 percent, with the aim of raising this figure to 18 percent to meet the nation’s strategic goals.
Al Marri also emphasized that the GCC countries possess a sophisticated and qualified travel and tourism infrastructure. By the end of 2022, the GCC had a total of 10,649 hotel establishments, marking a 1.2 percent growth compared to 2016. Within the GCC, the United Arab Emirates alone has 1,114 hotel establishments, ranking second in the GCC after Saudi Arabia. The total number of hotel rooms in the GCC reached 674,832, with a 0.4 percent growth.
He further asserted that the joint GCC tourism strategy for ‘2023-2030’ aims for an annual seven percent increase in incoming travel to GCC countries. The number of visitors to GCC countries reached 39.8 million last year, showing a growth of 136.6 percent compared to 2021, with the goal of reaching 128.7 million visitors by 2030.
GCC countries aspire to increase spending by incoming tourists by eight percent annually. It is expected to reach $96.9 billion by the end of 2023, with a growth of 12.8 percent compared to 2022, and reach $188 billion by 2030.
He also clarified that GCC countries aim to increase the direct contribution to the GDP of the travel and tourism sector by seven percent annually. The total added value to the GDP of the travel and tourism sector of GCC countries is expected to reach $185.9 billion in 2023, with an 8.5 percent growth compared to 2022, when it reached $171.4 billion.
Al Marri pointed out that GCC countries have 837 tourist sites, of which the UAE has 399, making it the leader in the GCC in the number of tourist sites. The UAE also has the majority of tourist events and activities in GCC countries, with 73 tourist events out of a total of 224 in the Gulf region.
Published by Emirates Herald, a news and information agency.