posted on 16/05/2012: 586 views
The plan for a single visa system for the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries for cruise passengers, which has been under discussion for almost four years, is finally expected to be in place by September, according to a senior Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing official.
"We have raised it [the visa issue] to the highest level and it is under way. Hopefully, we will have positive feedback.
"It will happen for sure before the next season. So it should be done by September this year," Hamad Mohammad Bin Mejren, DTCM's Executive Director for Business Tourism, told Gulf News yesterday on the sidelines of a conference to announce the maiden call of Royal Caribbean International's Voyager of the Seas cruise ship at Dubai's Port Rashid.
Asked if it would be a single visa for all the GCC countries, he said: "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 added that the visa process will be eased for cruise passengers and the region's travel and tourism industry is pushing the federal authorities to introduce it as quickly as possible.
The region's travel and tourism industry, along with cruise companies, has been pushing the federal authorities to introduce the single visa for cruise tourists.
The visa will enable visitors to tour all six GCC countries — the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Asked if the cruise industry also, expected the visa situation to be resolved by September, Helen Beck, Regional Director, EMEA for Royal Caribbean International, told Gulf News: "Yes, indeed. We have had verbal confirmation from the DTCM that it is very likely that the visa situation will be resolved [by September].
"But we are waiting for the written confirmation and details of exactly what that means."
Hoping it would be a single visa for 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 per cent certain yet what the visa will be. I imagine — but it's not confirmed — that it will be some kind of multi-entry visa specifically for cruise guests."
A single visa can speed things up in the cruise business as ships use Dubai as the hub to sail to other countries in the region such as Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.
At present, a lot of foreign travellers must secure several UAE entry visas.
The current visa process, according to Beck, blocks guests from key countries such as Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil and other such emerging markets, to visit the UAE and join a cruise. She told Gulf News in an earlier interview that it costs them [travellers] "approximately US$150 (Dh550) per person" to just come in and out of the country, adding that cruise companies would get a "great uptake" in cruise guests if a single visa were adopted. – Gulf News
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