By clicking "Checkout" you agree to understanding the terms and policies, including licensing, for these products.
Powered by

The Gulf Cooperation Council To Introduce Regional Tourist Visa

Sam Helmy
In the latest development to boost tourism in the Middle East members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a new 30-day regional tourist visa is expected to launch by the end of 2024

The Gulf Cooperation Council is looking to introduce a regional tourist visa scheme. No official timeline has been announced as of the time of writing; however, the scheme is expected to be in place by the end of 2024.

The move is expected to boost tourism in the area.

Oman has lots to offer on the tourist front.

Passengers will get one visa that they can use to visit multiple countries, eliminating the need to apply for an individual visa for each country they may want to visit.

What is the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC?

The Gulf Cooperation Council is an economic and political organization of the six Gulf countries:

  • Bahrain
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

The organization was established in 1981 and is modeled on the European Union. It aims to create a deep level of economic integration and freedom of movement and travel similar to that enjoyed in the EU. In addition, it created a free-movement area like the Schengen Zone.

The new visa is expected to be similar to the Schengen Visa, which allows people to move between member states without a visa once they are inside the GCC’s borders. One thing to note is the proposed visa scheme is very different from the Schengen visa in terms of its validity and scope of access.

No trip to the Middle East would be complete without a trip to Dubai.
No trip to the Middle East would be complete without a trip to Dubai.

The Schengen Visa is valid for up to 5 years and allows you one, two, or multiple access opportunities to the Schengen area. Once there, you can stay for up to 90 days in a continuous 180-day period. The proposed GCC visa looks very different since it seems to be issued for a single trip and allows you continuous access to the GCC for up to 30 days. So, if you want to visit Oman, you can also opt to spend a few days in Dubai, Bahrain, or anyplace else in the area.

However, if this does come off, then it would make sense that in a few years after its success, the scope of validity and access time would be increased. But only time will tell.

What Motivates the Scheme

Tourism and diversification are the simple answers. As these previously oil-dependent economies see the end of petroleum around the corner, they are looking to diversify their revenue sources. Five years ago, Saudi Arabia was closed off to tourists. Today, it has welcomed over 100 million tourists and is floating on a whopping $800 billion tourism investment. Saudi Arabia is aiming to host the 2034 FIFA Football World Cup.

Qatar, the largest natural gas producer in the world, is a leading sports host, having hosted the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup. Dubai is also now one of the world’s leading travel hubs and tourist destinations. The tiny city-state has more hotel rooms than Las Vegas, which is truly astonishing.

The council states want to be able to attract the biggest events and stars to perform in the area. According to the CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, (ATM), Fahd Hamidaddin:

“If we want to get the Taylor Swifts of the world, we can collaborate, with a view to an ‘Arabian tour’,… “I happen to also sit on the board of Cruise Saudi, and we are investing big on cruise ships as well as ports and cruise terminals,” Hamidaddin said. “We can easily see a big shift from Med to Red.”

While Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s economy minister, stated:

“In a significant move aimed at simplifying travel logistics and fostering tourism, the Gulf Cooperation Council has given the green light to a unified tourist visa that will allow travelers to visit all six countries,”

Final Thoughts

The bottom line here is that while the region is very attractive with lots of things to see and do. The visa situation has been a pain especially if you are visiting from afar and want to combine several countries in one trip. Having to apply for multiple visas is not fun at all.

Hopefully, this new visa program come into force sooner rather than later and start to open up the region to travelers from around the world.

Table Of Contents