The meeting saw ministers of the Gulf countries agree to submit their views on a proposed unified GCC tourist visa to the GCC Secretariat General by the end of December 2023, reported state-run Oman News Agency.

Salim bin Mohammed al Mahrouqi, Minister of Heritage and Tourism of Oman said there was consensus amongst the ministers for a common or unified GCC tourism visa. He added the implementation of this visa is likely to commence soon, once all necessary mechanisms were put in place.

Al Mahrouqi said, “The common tourism visa for the Gulf Cooperation Council is coming very soon. There is unanimous agreement, in terms of the importance of this matter. There will be a number of follow-up meetings to see how we can proceed on this to reach a full agreement on it.

“We aim to uplift the GCC’s tourism status, enrich our national economies and meet our people’s aspirations.”


The GCC countries are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Unified GCC tourist visa

Proposals were expected to be finalised before December-end, the news agency said. Currently, only nationals of the GCC countries are able to travel amongst these six countries on a unified-system. The proposed common GCC tourist visa would allow residents to travel seamlessly between the countries as well.

The countries have backed such a unified system as governments of various countries look to attract tourists and increase tourism revenue. Al Mahrouqi added that the GCC Tourism Strategy envisages the realisation of a unified vision to increase the number of inbound visits at a rate of 7 per cent annually until 2030.

UAE on the schengen-style visa

The UAE’s Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq at the Future Hospitality Summit in  Abu Dhabi, had said his government and other GCC countries are working towards introducing a common visa system that will ease travel and give a boost to regional tourism.

He said the UAE government was planning to launch a system “very soon” that will allow people to travel within the region under a single visa which is aimed as an impetus towards the tourism sector.

Abdulla bin Touq said, “Hopefully, we are going to see the something around a unified GCC tourist visa, which will allow easier mobility of people within the GCC. A resident of Saudi (Arabia), for instance, can enter the UAE and vice versa. I think that’s where we see the future of GCC tourism.”

Tourism numbers

The strategy also seeks to augment the spending of GCC inbound tourists by 8 per cent and the spending of domestic tourists by 2.4 per cent until 2030, besides raising direct gross domestic product (GDP) by an annual rate of 7 per cent until 2030.

At the meeting, ministers stated that intra-GCC tourism, as a ratio of overall international tourists, constituted 29.7 per cent, with a growth rate of 98.8 percent in 2022, compared to 2021.

The total number of GCC inbound visitors stood at 39.8 million in 2022, constituting a surge of 136.6 per cent over 2021 figures.

During his turn, Ahmed Aqeel Al-Khatib, Saudi Minister of Tourism, confirmed that the ministers discussed the establishment of a centre for unified Gulf statistics and a unified tourist visa scheme.

He added that GCC states are undergoing rapid growth and that, with joint action and ongoing coordination, the GCC countries would attract a good portion of the global travel market.

In addition, the countries will provide the general secretariat with their proposals on an initiative named “Our Gulf, the Birthplace of Civilizations”.