Dubai [Unsplash]

Unified tourist visa to drive demand in GCC member states

GCC: Member states in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] have agreed to roll out a unified tourist visa, which is set to fuel a spike in short-term rental demand across the region. 

The Schengen-style visa is designed to connect all six countries in the GCC – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar – and create more job opportunities, thereby improving regional tourism economies.

While citizens residing in GCC countries are currently able to travel without the unified visa between the member states, tourists from other countries have so far had to secure visas for each separate state to be able to travel between them.

The new scheme, which was approved at a meeting of regional interior ministers in the Omani capital of Muscat this week, will enable GCC residents and tourists to stay longer [tourists for more than 30 days if they wish] and spend more on the economy, all while creating significantly more jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors. In addition, the UAE’s Emirates Tourism Council is expected to prepare a route that connects all seven emirates using the unified tourist visa.

The GCC has laid out an ambitious plan to welcome 128.7 million visitors by 2030, with the UAE likely to be a prime destination in the region for travellers from abroad. The UAE currently has the highest number of tourist sites across all the Gulf countries [399], according to Khaleej Times, out of a total of 837 in the GCC, and that number is set to rise exponentially in the coming years.

According to figures released by Dubai Tourism, 12.4 million people visited the emirate between January and September of this year, up from 7.08 million visitors in the whole of last year and a 97 per cent increase on 2021 figures.

As demand rises across the UAE and other member states, a substantial rise in the number of listings is anticipated, which will also drive competition and impact average daily rates [ADRs].

There are an estimated 11,000 hotels and close to 700,000 hotel rooms in the UAE, and those numbers will rise in line with the increase in short-term rental listings as the region enhances its existing tourism infrastructure.

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