New Schengen-style visa planned for GCC countries: Minister

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are reviewing plans to launch a regional Schengen-style visa for tourists, a move that is expected to further boost economic growth, according to Bahrain’s Minister of Tourism.

Speaking during the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) held in the UAE’s Dubai, Fatima al-Sairafi said that the countries were studying how to achieve a unified single visa.

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GCC member states include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar.

“We see this could happen very soon because we see people flying from abroad to Europe usually spending their time in several countries rather than in one country. We really saw the value this can bring not to each country but all of us,” the minister told a panel at the ATM.

CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority Fahd Hamidaddin explained that future travelers will more likely lean toward visiting multiple countries in a region, rather than a single country if the visa system is adopted.

“I believe travelers of tomorrow will look always at multiple stops, routes, and regions,” Hamidaddin said.

The UAE’s Undersecretary for the Ministry of Economy Abdullah al-Saleh said that the entire Gulf region would benefit from “having umbrella regulations, policies, and procedures to facilitate growth.”

He added, “GCC countries believe that if they provide a good experience for visitors especially long-distance visitors coming to this region, instead of visiting one country, there will be a program to maximize their visits to more than one country in the region.”

According to al-Saleh, “The visitors will be happier by visiting several countries without restrictions, facilitating cross borders travel, having unified one package to visit different countries in GCC.”

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