DUBAI/JEDDAH – The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will soon introduce a single visa system for cruise passengers as part of ongoing efforts to boost regional tourism industry. The plans have been under discussion for almost four years, media reports said.
According to the report, the visa will enable visitors to tour all six GCC countries, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
“It will happen for sure before the next season. So it should be done by September this year,” Hamad Mohamed bin Mejren, Executive Director – Business Tourism, DTCM told Gulf News.
Mejren said the visa process will be eased for cruise passengers.
Asked if it would be a single visa for all the GCC countries, he said that is what they are hoping for, reported PTI. “That’s what we have conveyed (to the authorities) and that’s what we hope will happen,” he told the newspaper.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority has opened a fully-fledged office in Saudi Arabia to penetrate the Kingdom’s, and the wider GCC’s, high potential outbound market.
The office, headed by Mubarak Al Shamsi, on Jeddah’s main King Abdul Aziz Road next to the Star Avenue Mall, will have dedicated trade promotion, MICE and public relations staff and will double as a visitor center providing walk-in customers with all the information they need on destination Abu Dhabi.
The move comes as Saudi Arabia and other GCC destinations produce more hotel guests for the emirate than ever before with authority officials believing there’s more potential from the region.
In the first quarter of this year some 45,823 GCC nationals, excluding Emiratis, stayed in Abu Dhabi’s hotels and hotel apartments – a 57 percent increase on Q1 2011. In all they notched up 101,587 guest nights – up 50 percent on the first quarter of 2011. Saudi Arabia produced the lion’s share with some 22,107 Saudis staying in making the Kingdom Abu Dhabi’s fourth largest international source market. Abu Dhabi’s hotels and hotel apartment during Q1 this year – a 69 percent rise on the same period last year.
They accounted for 49,489 guest nights – again a 69 percent rise on Q1 2011.
“This market on our doorstep is extremely important to us,” explained Mubarak Al Nuaimi, International Promotions Manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. “There are excellent air links between Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi with Etihad, the national airline of the UAE now flying 23 times a week from the Kingdom to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabian Airlines operating 14 flights a week on the same route. Many others, of course, may opt to drive to Abu Dhabi and on the way can call in at the new resorts in Al Gharbia, such as the Desert Islands Resort and Spa on Sir Bani Yas Island which recently opened equestrian stables and which is soon to have a dedicated dive centre.
“There is much more to see and do in Abu Dhabi this year than last – and there is much more to come. Two major new resorts will open this summer and by the end of the year, Yas Island will have the UAE’s largest waterpark which we are sure will be a big draw with GCC clientele.”