Efforts are underway in collaboration with other GCC partners to launch the unified GCC tourist visa, said Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, UAE’s Minister of Economy.

“Once it comes into effect, it will contribute to highlighting the diverse tourism destinations in GCC countries, attracting and retaining tourists for longer periods, thus increasing the number of hotel guests and making the region one of the leading destinations for regional and international tourists alike,” Al Marri said after attending a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh on April 28 and 29.

The Gulf countries have been working on a single tourist visa – similar to Schengen-style visa – for over one year. It is expected to be rolled out once all the countries have put in place their system for smooth and seamless entry of foreign tourists into the region.

It is expected that the single tourist visa will be rolled out either later this year or next year. However, an official announcement is still awaited.

The minister further stressed developing sustainability in advancing tourism in the region due to environmental and social challenges that this region faces. He called for enhancing the regional and global tourism infrastructure to ensure the sustainability of the sector, which contributes massively to the regional economies and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Al Marri added that there are challenges ahead for sustainable tourism, most notably the necessity to up-skill the workforce, improving their performance and expertise in tourism.

Al Marri said the UAE has developed sustainable tourism practices such as eco-friendly accommodation, wildlife conservation, cultural heritage, and the launch of national initiatives and strategies such as the ‘National Tourism Strategy 2031.’

As reported by Khaleej Times earlier, the tourism sector in the UAE grew by a significant 26 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022 and surpassed 2019 levels by 14 per cent. Its contribution to the country's GDP amounted to Dh220 billion, accounting for 11.7 per cent. This is expected to rise in 2024 to Dh236 billion, equivalent to 12 per cent of the country's GDP, according to a recent report by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

In addition, this sector provided 809,000 jobs in various activities and tourism fields in the country in 2023, equivalent to 12.3 per cent of the total labour market. With five per cent growth from 2022, exceeding 2019 levels with 11.4 per cent growth, the number of jobs it creates is expected to reach 833,000 in 2024. There are currently 1,235 hotels in the UAE providing a total of 210,000 rooms for guests and visitors.

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