A single visa system for GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries for cruise passengers will be rolled out this September after four long years of discussions, tourism sources said.
“We have raised it to the highest level and it is under way. Hopefully, we will have positive feedback. It will happen for sure by next season. So it should be done by September this year,” Hamad Mohammad Bin Mejren, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing’s Executive Director for Business Tourism, said in a statement.
The department head said he also expects a single visa for all GCC countries. “That is what we hope for. That’s what we have conveyed to the authorities we want and that’s what we hope will happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, region’s travel and tourism industry is pushing federal authorities hard to introduce single visa to ease the pressure of both industry and cruise passengers who travel in all GCC countries.
Once this single visa is introduced, it will enable tourists to visit all six countries of GCC countries which include the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Helen Beck, Regional Director, EMEA for Royal Caribbean International, commented on resolving cruise industry’s visa issues said: “Yes, indeed. We have verbal confirmation from the DTCM that is very likely that the visa situation will be resolved by September. But we are waiting for a written confirmation and details of exactly what that means.”
Speaking about single visa for cruise guest to enter in all GCC countries, Beck said: “That’s our expectation and that’s the information we have been missing at the moment, as to specifically what the proposal from the immigration team is going to be. Our understanding is that it’s in place to make a change but we are not exactly 100% yet what the visa will be. I imagine, but it is not confirmed that it will be some kind of multi-entry visa specifically for cruise guest.”
With single visa being introduced, all GCC countries will be benefited by cruise passengers arrival. Also known as Common Tourist Visa, it would facilitate easy movement from country to other in GCC.
Presently, Middle East countries are providing huge potential for cruise tourists. There are many new cruise liners coming up in the region, it has eventually helped in growth of cruise tourism in the region.
Currently, Dubai is being used as the centre hub to sail to other countries through cruise. But with this new single visa, tourists will have options to cruise in other countries.
Countries like the UAE and Qatar are expanding their ports to receive large cruise ships in coming years. Moreover, cruise companies in Middle East are also looking forward for the expansion of ports in order to receive more ships. It is hoped that the new single visa process will lead to an increase in tourism sector in coming years.
According to Beck, the current visa is blocking guests to enter into the region. Countries like Russia, China. South Africa, Brazil are emerging economies and are keen to visit GCC countries. A single visa will prove as a great uptake in form of cruise guests, he added.