Doha, Qatar: A unified Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) visa, akin to the Schengen visa in Europe, is set to be implemented by the end of this year, aimed at enhancing tourism across the GCC nations.

Qatar Tourism Chairman, H E Saad bin Ali Al Kharji, announced this development during a panel discussion titled "From the Gulf to the World: The Future of Tourism" at yesterday’s Qatar Economic Forum. "At the end of this year, we might see the unified GCC Visa, which will also contribute to the number of visitors to this region."

The ‘GCC Grand Tours visa’ will allow for multi-entry, enabling travellers to move freely among the six GCC countries: Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. Travellers will enjoy seamless travel and the freedom to spend over 30 days in any of the countries covered by the said visa.

Al Kharji stressed the unique hospitality of the GCC region: "we have something unique that other countries do not have. We have genuine Gulf hospitality and authentic generosity. The best way to show this to the world is by employing our Qataris and residents who share the same identity of hospitality and generosity. This can provide visitors with the full experience and ensure they are well-treated here. Thus, we are promoting our hospitality."

Speaking about Qatar’s plans to enhance the tourism sector, Al Kharji highlighted the success during the World Cup tournament in 2022, which inspired discussions within the GCC in 2023 to establish the unified GCC visa. He also mentioned a recent collaboration with Saudi Arabia called "Double the Discovery," where both countries are promoted in one campaign, announced in March this year.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al Khateeb meanwhile highlighted the importance of the unified visa. "The first step is to make travel between the GCC countries seamless. Then, we will start working on joint packages, joint flights, and joint promotion programmes to put this destination on the global travel map. We started with Qatar during the World Cup, where a visa allowed access to both countries, and the programme was extremely successful. We will build on this, as this is a very important region with a lot to offer.”

Meanwhile, Accor Group Chairman and CEO, Sébastien Bazin, noted the rapid growth of the GCC region in travel and tourism. "GCC is the fastest-growing region on the planet for travel and tourism. We are already 25% better than the rest of the world.”

“The reason for this is leadership in each of these regions. There is a plan, there's a vision, there's ambition, there are destinations, financial muscles, manpower—all of that has been structured, programmed, and developed at different paces.”

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