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New ‘Grand Visa’ Will Allow Tourists To Easily Visit These 6 Gulf Countries

The allure of the Gulf countries has transformed significantly over the years, evolving from relatively unknown arid landscapes into the world's oil capital and a rapidly expanding development hub.

These nations now attract millions of tourists annually, drawn by the luxurious resorts and futuristic cityscapes of places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh.

Despite their growing popularity, traveling between these countries has been complicated due to differing entry requirements and visa policies. Each country maintains its own set of rules, which can make planning a multi-destination trip quite challenging. For example, while Americans can enter the United Arab Emirates (UAE) without a visa, they need to apply for an eVisa to visit Saudi Arabia. This lack of a unified tourism policy has been a major obstacle for travelers wishing to explore multiple Gulf countries in one trip.

However, change is on the horizon. By the end of the year, a new ‘grand visa’ will be introduced, allowing tourists to travel across the Gulf with minimal bureaucracy. This initiative is expected to revolutionize travel within the region.

All six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—have agreed to implement a unified tourist visa by the end of 2024. Although specific details are still forthcoming, the basic premise is that this visa will be valid in all participating countries, simplifying the process for travelers.

The introduction of this unified visa aims to bolster tourism across the Gulf. The region is set to launch a variety of new destinations in the coming decade, including a resort area along Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast, which has been compared to the Caribbean.

The expected surge in tourism should significantly boost revenue, particularly as the new visa will alleviate the cumbersome visa application processes that currently exist. For instance, while Americans can enter the UAE, Oman, and Qatar visa-free, they face different entry regulations in each country. The UAE and Qatar allow a 30-day stay upon entry, but Oman only grants a 14-day permit. The new visa aims to standardize these rules, likely setting a minimum 30-day stay period across all Gulf states.

This new visa will eliminate the current disparities in entry and stay regulations, making travel more seamless. It draws comparisons to the Schengen Area in Europe, which has removed border controls between member states, facilitating easier travel and integration. However, the Schengen Area also limits tourists to a 90-day stay within any 180-day period, which restricts long-term travel options. It's uncertain if the Gulf visa will have similar restrictions, but the goal is clear: to create a more integrated travel area.

The introduction of this unified visa is part of a broader vision for economic integration among the Gulf states. According to Riyadh spokesperson Yasser Hakim, this visa is just the first step towards greater economic cooperation, with future plans potentially including a single currency for the region.

As the specifics of the new visa system are still being finalized, questions remain about how it will affect existing bilateral visa agreements. For example, it's unclear whether Americans will still be able to travel visa-free to the UAE once the new visa is implemented, or if the Gulf states will form a borderless travel zone similar to the Schengen Area, allowing visa-free entry for all.

For now, travelers should continue to follow the current visa rules based on their nationality. The unified visa is poised to simplify travel across the Gulf, making it easier for tourists to explore the diverse and rapidly developing region. As more information becomes available, we will provide updates to keep you informed about this exciting development in Gulf tourism.


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