Tourism

What we know about the Schengen-style scheme

The long-awaited visa will create more job opportunities, in addition to improving regional economies.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are now one step closer to launching a game-changing Schengen-style visa to boost tourism in the region.

Last week, during a meeting of GCC ministers in Muscat, Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi, Oman’s Minister of Heritage and Tourism, announced that the unified visa had been approved unanimously.

The single visa is a tourist ticket to explore the six-member Gulf bloc: the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. Several Gulf ministers and senior officials, including those from the United Arab Emirates, have revealed in recent months that the unified visa would be launched “soon”.

The long-awaited visa will create more job opportunities, in addition to improving regional economies.

Here’s what we know so far about the unified tourist visa:

What is a unified GCC visa?

Similar to a Schengen visa that gives tourists access to several European countries, the GCC is looking to implement a visa that would allow visitors to hop between the countries that make up the Gulf bloc.

Currently, tourists must obtain visas for the six Gulf countries separately, although the destinations are connected by air and road.

How will the plan help?

In May this year, a senior UAE official highlighted that tourists, especially long-haul tourists, would benefit from a unified package to visit different GCC countries. The plan will also increase the length of their stay, as well as boosting spending by tourists.

When will the visa be released?

Omani media quoted Minister Mahrouqi as saying the plan would be launched “very soon”. No timeline was specified, but Oman Observer reported that it will be presented at a meeting of regional interior ministers in November in Muscat.

What would the plan entail?

Once implemented, the plan could allow GCC countries to run joint advertising campaigns. Officials had previously talked about having a common booking platform and a joint tourism website.

Can residents of GCC countries apply for the visa?

Currently, citizens of GCC countries enjoy visa-free travel between member states. It is not immediately clear whether expats residing in these countries can or would need to apply for the unified visa once it is implemented. However, last month, Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy, said the GCC is considering a single visa system that will allow its residents to travel freely between member states.

How many countries can you visit with a visa?

Visa holders could visit all six GCC countries: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.

What will be the cost and duration of the visa?

The price and validity of the visa have not been revealed so far. More details are expected to be announced later in the year.

News Source: Khaleej Times

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