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Single tourist visa for Middle East

Single tourist visa for Middle East

A single visa will make travel around the Middle East more covenient (photo courtesy Unsplash)

It will soon become even easier to visit the Middle East with the roll-out of a new, unified single tourist visa for six Gulf countries in the Middle East by the end of the year.

Similar to the Shenghen visa arrangement in Europe, the single visa will enable visitors to move between multiple countries.

The initiative was officially unveiled by the Gulf Cooperation Council earlier this month and will be known as ‘GCC Grand Tours’. The visa aims to boost tourism by making travel across the GCC region more convenient. The countries involved in the scheme are Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

As countries fight it out for the valuable tourist dollar, Thailand recently announced proposals for a similar unified visa last month. The proposal is as yet only in the planning stages and would include six Southeast Asian countries. Thailand is looking to boost tourists to 80 million a year by 2027.

The aim of the GCC visa is to encourage visitors to stay longer in the Gulf region. Current and future infrastructure will complement the visa, with investment in existing airports and cruise terminals, as well as the upcoming Gulf Railway which will eventually connect Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar by rail. Dubai last week approved plans to move its airport 35km southwest as part of a US$35 billion expansion which will transform it into the largest airport in the world.

“We are working day and night and e-service is a vital part of  it,” said Khalid Jasim Al Midfa of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Authority of the GCC Grand Tours visa. “We don’t want to complicate things for people and also maintain the security level. It will be a very good initiative and we will see a positive outcome for regional economies.”

The UAE believes that a single GCC visa could boost visitors to the region to 129 million by 2030.

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