Skift Take

A GCC unified visa could prompt many things, including some fleeting visits by superstars.

A Taylor Swift tour is on Saudi Arabia’s radar. That’s not saying much of course – Swift is on every destination’s radar. But Saudi says such a concert could be in the country’s future if the wider Arabia does more to promote itself as a unified destination.

“If we [the GCC] want the Taylor Swifts of the world, we can do it if we collaborate and get an Arabian tour [finalized],” said Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) CEO Fahd Hamidaddin at Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Dubai’s biggest travel trade show.

Hamidaddin was on a panel discussing the rollout of the region’s “GCC zone” visa – a single travel permit akin to the Schengen zone that will allow travelers across Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.

Swift’s Eras Tour is ongoing until the winter with 150+ shows on five continents. She does not have any stops in the GCC, despite Saudi and the UAE investing heavily in their events infrastructure.

Qatar too has a string of dormant FIFA stadiums perfect for massive concerts.

Saudi is no stranger to using superstars to promote its tourism agenda. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are on the payroll, living and working in the kingdom. Both often promote key tourism destinations in the country and appear in ad campaigns.

In the events tourism segment, Saudi is a big player in WWE and other fighting sports and Abu Dhabi plays host to numerous UFC games.

The GCC Zone

This visa was first mentioned in May 2023 at a conference in Dubai, where the countries’ ministers shared their hopes to unite the GCC so tourists would consider cross-country travel like they do in Europe.

It was then approved in October last year. At ATM, government officials said the “platform” should be completed before the end of 2024.

How could a unified visa help land big acts? Countries’ tourism orgs are aligning on packages to sell to visitors.

On stage, Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister for Economy UAE said that the visa will include “grand packages” a month in length.

“The unified tourist visa will allow travelers to visit all six countries,” he said. Through the GCC grand tours we are aiming to finish, tourists will spend more than 30 days in the region.”

Another panelist added that the new visa will primarily bump up length of stay in the Gulf. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority said: “One of the main aims is to extend the length of stay. In leisure, people can travel up to four weeks. We want them to combine their holidays across the GCC.”

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Tags: gcc visa, middle east report, taylor swift, Tourism news

Photo credit: Taylor Swift performing on-stage during the Eras Tour concert at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, August, 9, 2023. Paolo Villanueva / Wikimedia

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