Dubai: In a major boost to the travel sector, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations have launched discussions to introduce a common visa for tourists on the model of the Schengen Visa issued to travellers heading to Europe.
Details of these discussions were revealed at Arabian Travel Market by Fatima Al Sairafi, the tourism minister of Bahrain. “We are aware how convenient the Schengen Visa is for people travelling to Europe. A tourist can visit several European countries with a single visa and each of these nations benefit from the facility. The rulers of GCC nations feel that this is a good arrangement which they could emulate,” said the minister.
A common visa would help enhance the brand value of all GCC nations and lead to comprehensive development of the region, she added.
According to the minister, Bahrain had benefited from carrying out tourism publicity campaigns jointly with UAE and Saudi Arabia. “We had anticipated the arrival of 8.3 million tourists in 2022, but the actual number of visitors was 9.9 million,” said the minister.
“Over 100 tour operators were involved in our campaign and visitors from more countries reached Bahrain,” she said.
UAE’s under-secretary in the finance ministry Abdullah Al Saleh supported the stand of the Bahrain minister and said that a common visa would help travellers visit more countries without hassles.
According to Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahad Hamidaddin, it is proposed to consider the entire GCC area as a single region instead of separate countries for tourism purposes. “The GCC member countries have to enhance their cooperation to meet this goal,” he said.
When Qatar hosted the FIFA world cup recently, many of the large number of tourists who had thronged that country had visited Saudi also, he informed.
As per the latest plan of the GCC countries, joint publicity campaigns, common tourism applications, a single website for tourism and an online booking platform would be implemented. Moreover, GCC nations would attend various tourism fares around the world under a single brand named ‘GCC Tourism.’