The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are now conducting intensive studies to issue joint Schengen-model visas to foreign tourists.
“The project is still under study and will be approved once all conditions are fulfilled,” a high-level source told Al-Madinah Arabic daily.
The new visa will enable foreigners to visit all GCC countries without any difficulty, said the source, who requested anonymity.
Commenting on the project, Khaled Muejib Al-Touq, a member of the tourist guides association’s board of directors, said it would boost GCC economies.
“As per available information, tourists will be able to get visas from embassies of any of the six Gulf countries to explore tourist attractions in the GCC,” he said.
Al-Touq said many foreign tourists from different parts of the world intend to visit Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries. “The joint Gulf visa will strengthen the Kingdom’s economy, boost domestic tourism and create more job opportunities for Saudis,” he added.
Al-Touq emphasized the need to strengthen tourism infrastructure, including hotels, motels and guides to meet the requirements of foreign tourists. “This will also help attract more investors to the tourism sector,” he added.
Hamza Al-Juaid, owner of a travel and tourism office, said the joint visa project would serve as a shot in the hands of domestic tourism agencies. “We should make use of the expertise and experiments of foreign countries that depend heavily on tourism revenue.”
He said the Council of Saudi Chambers has backed the vital project. “We in the travel and tourism sector expect a quick positive decision on the matter.”
According to latest statistics, the Kingdom’s tourism market jumped from SR59 billion in 2010 to SR103 billion in 2014. Total spending in the sector is expected to reach SR150 billion in the next two years with SR50 billion going to domestic tourism and SR100 billion to foreign tourism.