UAE weighs visa-free travel for Gulf residents to boost tourism


The United Arab Emirates is weighing plans for a visa system that would simplify travel for residents to neighboring Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia. 

The new visa system would allow residents in the Gulf Cooperation Council to travel freely within countries that make up the bloc, including Saudi Arabia, UAE Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri said at a conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. The regime could be introduced “very soon,” he said.

The GCC group also includes Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. Citizens of the six-nation bloc are free to travel across borders without applying for visas. Foreign residents – which make up the bulk of their populations and come around the world – often still need visas to cross GCC borders.

Asked about rising competition with neighboring Saudi Arabia, Al Marri said that what’s good for the kingdom is good for the wider region, including his country.

The UAE – home to the Middle East’s business hub of Dubai – has seen a surge in new arrivals due in part to the government’s moves to ease societal restrictions. 

UAE officials have maintained that competition is healthy and indicates the region is becoming more attractive. Visa-free travel among the countries’ residents should complement that stance by boosting tourism, Al Marri said.

“What’s good for Saudi is good for the GCC,” he said at the conference. “If the tide comes up, it pulls up all the boats.” 

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