Abdullah Bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy, has announced that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will roll out a unified Gulf tourist visa within the next two years, which will allow visa holders to travel across the six Gulf countries.
Al Marri said the seventh meeting of GCC tourism ministers in Oman has unanimously endorsed its rollout to be presented at the upcoming GCC summit.
Unified Gulf Tourist Visa
In a statement to WAM, the minister said that specific regulations and legislation for the visa will be developed, with a targeted rollout between 2024 and 2025, subject to the readiness of each GCC country’s internal systems.
Al Marri noted that this new visa will open doors to travellers, granting them access to six countries under a single, unified tourist visa, ultimately fostering economic synergy across the Gulf region.
He said the UAE is getting ready to welcome the new flow of international tourists with the introduction of the unified visa.
Emirates Tourism Council
The Emirates Tourism Council has formulated a tourist route within the UAE that interconnects its seven emirates, the minister said. This strategic move positions the UAE to be well-prepared and equipped for the integration with the GCC, upon fully activating the unified tourist visa, thereby introducing a new, enticing tourism product to captivate international tourists in the Arabian Gulf region.
GCC 2030 Tourism Strategy
“This initiative is an integral part of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, designed to elevate the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP through increased inter-GCC travel and elevated hotel occupancy rates, transforming the GCC into a pre-eminent global destination for both regional and international tourists,” the UAE minister added.
The tourism sector’s current contribution to the UAE’s GDP stands at 14 percent, with aspirations to raise this figure to 18 percent to fulfil the nation’s strategic tourism objectives.
Al Marri also emphasised that GCC countries possess sophisticated and qualified travel and tourism infrastructure.
As of the end of 2022, the GCC boasted a total of 10,649 hotel establishments, marking a 1.2 percent growth compared to 2016. Within the GCC, the UAE alone boasts 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 stated that the GCC joint tourism strategy “2023-2030” targets an annual increase of 7 percent in inbound trips to GCC countries.
The number of visitors to GCC countries reached 39.8 million last year, showing a 136.6 percent growth compared to 2021, with a target of reaching 128.7 million visitors by 2030.
GCC countries aim to increase the spending of inbound tourists by 8.0 percent annually. It is expected to reach $96.9 billion by the end of 2023, with a 12.8 percent growth compared to 2022, and reach $188 billion by 2030.
Travel and Tourism Sector
He clarified that GCC countries aim to increase the direct GDP contribution of the travel and tourism sector by 7 percent annually. The total value added to the GDP of GCC countries’ travel and tourism sector is expected to reach $185.9 billion in 2023, with an 8.5 percent growth compared to 2022, when it achieved $171.4 billion.
Al Marri pointed out that the GCC countries have 837 tourist sites, with the UAE having 399 of them, making it the GCC leader in the number of tourist sites.
The UAE also hosts the majority of events and tourist activities in GCC countries, with 73 tourist events out of a total of 224 in the Gulf region.