Six Gulf Countries Plan Multi-Nation Visa To Boost Tourism

Six Gulf Countries Plan Multi-Nation Visa To Boost Tourism

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Before the end of the year, several Gulf countries are planning on introducing a multi-nation visa, in an effort to boost tourism. Think of it as being somewhere along the lines of the Schengen concept in Europe, only not.

Details of Middle Eastern visa coming in late 2024

Six Gulf countries have announced plans to introduce a unified visa concept, which would allow at least 30 consecutive days of travel throughout Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member nations. This includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

No official date has been announced for this to be launched, but the plan is for the concept to start before the end of 2024. Like anything involving bureaucracy, I’d expect that timeline to remain highly subject to change.

This would be inspired by a similar concept to the Schengen visa, where you can get a visa that allows you to travel within 27 countries in Europe. What would be different here is that there would still be passport and visa checks as you enter each country, so it wouldn’t be true “free movement,” as you have in Europe, where there aren’t even border checks between countries.

As it stands, Gulf countries have vastly different visa requirements, which vary based on many factors, including what passport you hold. For example, as an American you don’t need any sort of a visa for a UAE, you can get a visa on arrival for Kuwait, while you need a visa in advance for Saudi Arabia.

I would imagine that if you’re currently eligible to enter a Gulf country without a visa, that would still be possible after this change. Rather, this represents a simplification of the process for those who do need a visa.

Gulf countries are looking to simplify visa requirements

The Middle East’s motivation for multi-nation visa

Just about all Gulf countries are trying to boost their tourism, in an effort to become less reliant on oil. The UAE has of course been incredibly successful with this, while other countries in the region are trying to catch up. Admittedly in the case of Dubai, that’s largely thanks to Emirates’ huge hub there, plus the country’s more relaxed rules for visitors (at least in terms of enforcement).

Qatar is trying to boost its tourism industry following the World Cup, though visitor numbers certainly haven’t been as high since then. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is investing an unprecedented amount of money in tourism, though it remains to be seen if that pays off.

What’s interesting is what the goal here is, more specifically. Like most things in the world, this concept is inspired by… Taylor Swift? No, really. As the CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority explains, attracting major events like a Taylor Swift tour would require regional cooperation — “if we want to get the Taylor Swifts of the world, we can collaborate, with a view to an Arabian tour.”

The goal with such a visa is also to increase cruise business in the region. Currently cruise passengers need to apply for a visa for each country individually, while a unified visa would make it easier to facilitate cruise itineraries in the region.

I think there’s definitely merit to this concept for big events and cruises. Anything that simplifies travel logistics is a good thing. That being said, I don’t think we’ll suddenly see a huge increase in people planning land-based trips to multiple countries in the region. I mean, a trip to Doha, Dubai, and Kuwait, doesn’t sound like the most varied trip.

I also can’t help but be curious about the timeline here. It can take a single country years to decide on how to establish visa requirements. Then when you add six different countries into the mix (especially some countries with a lot of red tape), I can’t help but wonder if this might just be a bit more complicated than hoped.

Lastly, many people frequently travel through the region, connecting in various places. Personally what I’d like to see most is a multi-entry visa that spans several years, rather than just single visas that allow you to travel to multiple countries within 30 days.

I’ll for anything that simplifies travel rules

Bottom line

Six Gulf countries are hoping to introduce a unified visa concept before the end of 2024, in order to facilitate easier travel between countries. This would no doubt be a positive development for visitors, and in particular, would make it easier to plan big events in the region. Here’s to hoping that this becomes a reality.

What do you make of the concept of a multi-nation Gulf visa?

Conversations (22)
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  1. sullyofdoha Guest

    Years ago (early 2000s) the GCC was promoting a common currency too...

    1. GUWonder Guest

      Some of the GCC currencies are more or less pegged to the US$, and the idea of someone doing the same to the GCC currencies by being a present-day George Soros breaking the ecu is unlikely to be as easy a play when the central banks of the GCC have so much liquidity that they can bury even the biggest hedge funds with the best prime brokerage deals.

  2. ClownDancer Guest

    To Joey Diamond. Singapore attracted Swift fans from all over SE Asia because she made a contract with Singapore government to only do her tour there. So if you lived in SE Asia you were forced to go to Singapore. Of course lax visa rules made it easy for her fans to travel to Singapore. Perhaps Swift would tour in Saudi Arabia if they paid her 1 billion plus the ticket sales.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      All the greed at the expense of fans.
      And people still defend this authoritarian regime.

  3. iamhere Guest

    Next, Africa needs to do a similar idea with having several countries join one visa. While it is being done to a small extent it is not enough. I was thinking two or three visas for the continent. It would be great if it were similar to the shengen.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      Just curious why you think Africa in particular should do this?

  4. Al Guest

    I'm curious how or if this would work for Israelis and other countries that don't have relations with all the countries listed here

    1. UncleRonnie Gold

      Go to Crete instead.

    2. GUWonder Guest

      The GCC countries’ autocratic leaders are all good with making business with Israel and it’s only a matter of time until the Saudi government wants Israeli tourist and Israel-bound traffic as well. The GCC establishment players are big into money and power above all, which is the main reason why they are “allied” with us.

    3. stuart Guest

      Kuwait will never ever in a million years ever do business with Israel.

  5. Ryan Guest

    Sounds like a bad deal for those who are accustomed to free and easy entry to the UAE or Qatar. Hopefully they maintain that. Seems like their status as international hubs would be difficult to maintain if people needed to go through a visa process just to leave the airport for a day or two.

  6. Luke Guest

    Qatar and the other gcc nations cooperating after just recently fighting each other for years, Qatar airways had to by pass their airspace now shared visa!

  7. A220HubandSpoke Member

    It did seem a little silly to me that these nations all have the same "Vision" plans yet want to compete, not work together.

    The EU has worked out incredibly well economically for those nations, so why not the GCC?

    Also the UAE has grown a lot due to loose immigration rules. That alone boosts growth significantly

    1. GUWonder Guest

      The UAE hasn’t grown just because of openness to immigration and loose rules of sort, but they have grown because of ONG and playing fast and loose with a lot of other rules too. The country is sort of like mercenaries and that Lando guy’s place in Empire Strikes Back.

  8. Egy Guest

    I think most of these changes are targeting medium and high income individuals and families from the developing countries. Getting a visa is really annoying and costly money wise and time wise. Maybe people like ben have no idea about this but many people in developing countries can't get a visa to the western world and don't wanna go through the hassle ( this is very true for high value individuals such business owners) I...

    I think most of these changes are targeting medium and high income individuals and families from the developing countries. Getting a visa is really annoying and costly money wise and time wise. Maybe people like ben have no idea about this but many people in developing countries can't get a visa to the western world and don't wanna go through the hassle ( this is very true for high value individuals such business owners) I know many examples like that, they rarely go to countries where a visa is required because they just don't have the time to plan and go through the visa application process. Do you know what we need to submit for Schengen, us and UK visas? Ridiculous! But when they get some random vacation they just wanna go somewhere they can just book a ticket and fly. Dubai has attracted a lot of African and Asian tourists that way.
    The rest of the gulf is learning but the rest of the world hasn't learned. Many governments think a visa is a minor factor for tourism but it's a lot more significant than they think. Dubai knows it, Qatar noticed it recently with hayya. Now it's spreading in the region. I hope many other countries learn but usually government officers are not smart either way, very slow and arrogant

    1. GUWonder Guest

      Exactly. Visa hassles act as restraint on travel demand.

      There is already “a Germany in China”. And there is soon going to be an “Italy in India”. That’s a lot of potential tourists for these countries. But a joint visa is most useful when it can be done as an evisa or visa-on-arrival instead of the kind of hassles the US, UK and Schengen countries give such countries’ citizens legitimately looking for a vacation or business trip.

  9. Marcus Guest

    Just one quick correction, as an American who was in Saudi Arabia this summer we are also eligible for a visa on arrival.

  10. GUWonder Guest

    The Taylor Swift and Beyoncé concerts in Europe following the pandemic have been attracting lots of Americans. A cheaper way to get tickets and you can bundle it in with a vacation on the relative cheap without as high a risk of becoming a victim of gun possession on steroids.

    The Saudi government’s sports and entertainment washing is just that but they also are big into needing the “bread and circus” game given their large...

    The Taylor Swift and Beyoncé concerts in Europe following the pandemic have been attracting lots of Americans. A cheaper way to get tickets and you can bundle it in with a vacation on the relative cheap without as high a risk of becoming a victim of gun possession on steroids.

    The Saudi government’s sports and entertainment washing is just that but they also are big into needing the “bread and circus” game given their large population of effectively underemployed young adults and the need to diversify their economy.

  11. Joey Diamond

    Taylor Swift tour normally attracts the people who live there regionally. I know for her concert in Singapore, it attracted all of her Southeast Asia fans since Singapore didn't require a visa from them (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, etc.) I imagine if she has a concert in Dubai, it would attract Swifties from all of the GCC member countries and they don't need visas to go to UAE.

  12. scio nescio Guest

    Spot on.
    Don't hold your breath for swift changes (pun intended) to the visa regulations. The amount of bureaucracy in this region is often mind-boggling. It will happen, though. But it will, unfortunately, not come fast.

  13. WaywardAlpaca Member

    Sounds much more like the East African Tourist Visa than the Schengen zone.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      The EATV is basically dead nowadays with Kenya no longer issuing them. You can only get them if you enter the zone directly to Uganda or Rwanda and then move between the countries without exiting the zone. At least Kenya still accepts the UG/RW issued visas till the end of the year.

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Sean M. Diamond

The EATV is basically dead nowadays with Kenya no longer issuing them. You can only get them if you enter the zone directly to Uganda or Rwanda and then move between the countries without exiting the zone. At least Kenya still accepts the UG/RW issued visas till the end of the year.

2
GUWonder Guest

Exactly. Visa hassles act as restraint on travel demand. There is already “a Germany in China”. And there is soon going to be an “Italy in India”. That’s a lot of potential tourists for these countries. But a joint visa is most useful when it can be done as an evisa or visa-on-arrival instead of the kind of hassles the US, UK and Schengen countries give such countries’ citizens legitimately looking for a vacation or business trip.

1
Egy Guest

I think most of these changes are targeting medium and high income individuals and families from the developing countries. Getting a visa is really annoying and costly money wise and time wise. Maybe people like ben have no idea about this but many people in developing countries can't get a visa to the western world and don't wanna go through the hassle ( this is very true for high value individuals such business owners) I know many examples like that, they rarely go to countries where a visa is required because they just don't have the time to plan and go through the visa application process. Do you know what we need to submit for Schengen, us and UK visas? Ridiculous! But when they get some random vacation they just wanna go somewhere they can just book a ticket and fly. Dubai has attracted a lot of African and Asian tourists that way. The rest of the gulf is learning but the rest of the world hasn't learned. Many governments think a visa is a minor factor for tourism but it's a lot more significant than they think. Dubai knows it, Qatar noticed it recently with hayya. Now it's spreading in the region. I hope many other countries learn but usually government officers are not smart either way, very slow and arrogant

1
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