GCC unified tourist visa: For Dh4,000, visitors can soon explore multiple Gulf countries

The visa will be similar to a Schengen-style visa, allowing visa holders to explore all six Gulf countries

Local and global travel agencies will soon roll out packages for tourists who will visit the Gulf region ahead of the launch of the unified GCC tourist visa.

Travel and tourism industry executives say that packages which will include a couple of night stays in three countries could cost visitors Dh4,000-Dh5,000 and above,covering travel, hotel and sightseeing in three countries.

During a ministerial discussion at the Arabian Travel Market last week, officials said that the systems to launch the ‘GCC Grand Tours’ visa will be in place by the end of this year. The visa will be similar to a Schengen-style visa, allowing visa holders to explore all six Gulf countries.

Rehan Asad, vice president for global markets at Expedia, said the unified GCC tourist visa is a really meaningful positive change for this region.

He added that when Europe started the Schengen visa, it really amplified and helped the region’s tourism sector and allowed people to do cross-flight from one to another country. “People from UAE love to travel to Saudi Arabia and Oman and vice-versa, hence, this will drive intra-country traffic and help develop tourism even further,” he said.

“People want convenience in this entire journey during the GCC tour. We found that children aged 8-14 play a critical role in deciding the family destination, vacation and hotel. We will be rolling out very soon a combined year-end hotels, cars and activities tour packages. We are looking at segments and what are the needs of customers. We have done a thorough research in 10 million-plus population look for what kind of package and based on the people’s needs, we will be rolling out packages,” he said.

He added that these packages will be “dynamic and not pre-bundled”, but people will have options to choose from different options.

“Our initial primary focus will be UAE and then Saudi Arabia. People will find our offerings throughout GCC.”

He said the upcoming GCC unified tourist visa is one of the very critical factors that Expedia is expanding operations in the GCC.

He added that events also drive travel and tourism in the region such as Expo 2020 and Fifa World Cup Qatar etc., that have put the region in the spotlight for tourism.

Anas Anane, associate executive at Traveazy, said this unified GCC tourist visa will be a big plus for the travel and tourism sector.

“It should be starting from Dh1,500 per person for one country including transfers, flights and sightseeing. The cost will also depend on the peak or off-peak period that people are visiting the GCC countries.”

He estimated that it would approximately cost Dh4,000-Dh5,000 for tourists visiting a couple of days stay each in UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, covering flights, hotels, transfer and excursions in selective countries.

Dubai in focus

Mohammed Farooz, executive secretary at Last Minute Tourism, said many companies are already focusing on the launches of packages. “We will soon be rolling out a package for Dubai, Oman and Qatar markets in a couple of months. This will include three nights each in Dubai and Oman. Similarly, three nights each in Dubai and Qatar. People who will buy our packages, will first land in Dubai and then move on to next destinations in the region,” he said.

Farooz added that packages are more affordable, costing around 25 per cent cheaper because of bundle offers.

Ross Veitch, chief executive officer and co-founder of Wego, said this unified GCC tourist visa will be a big incentive for inbound tourism and also for residents of the regional countries.

“This unified GCC visa will make the region even more popular, especially among the Chinese inbound visitors like we have seen in Europe and Southeast Asia. It is common among Chinese visitors that they land in Bangkok, and spend a few days in Thailand, followed by a few days each in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. I think they will do the similar here in this region also after the rollout of the unified tourist visa. They can land in Jeddah to have a taste of Arabia there and then come to Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah and then return home,” said Veitch.

He added that people are increasingly mixing business and leisure travel in the post-Covid period and he sees this trend gaining momentum following the rollout of the unified GCC tourist visa.

Source: khaleejtimes

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