Evolution of Gulf states as free travel zone will fuel regional growth

Ernesto Sanchez Beaumont

Head of Commercial Strategy and Business Management, MENA, Amadeus IT Group

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A multitude of forces – including the ‘population effect’, the ‘beyond oil effect’, and the ‘infrastructure effect’ will significantly impact travel in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Beyond those effects – which we’ve identified in our report Shaping the Future of Travel in the Gulf Cooperation Council – is the ‘gateway effect’.


The GCC is highly integrated and is close to enabling domestic or intra-regional travel without borders for its citizens. This feature, particularly for GCC nationals, will continue to drive growth in short-haul trips and weekend travel, in terms of both sheer numbers as well as frequency.

However, the game changer will be the decisive step by the nations to weave themselves intricately into the global travel ecosystem, manifesting increasingly in a combination of competitive and ‘co-operative’ practices.

What are these practices?

Currently, these include nation-level simplification and reduction of travel formalities for a larger global base, facilitation of seamless travel through deployment of e-borders and customs pre-clearance, and the waiver of visas for key travel destinations as well as the region-level initiative towards a unified GCC visa. Industry participants are likewise entering into code-share alliances or aggressively acquiring attractive competitors to build on the region’s importance as a connecting global hub.

These strategies will see an increase in the level of inbound and outbound tourism. Inbound leisure and business travellers will benefit from multiple-entry visas and increase the number of repeat visits, while the gates of countries that lack a leisure visa, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), will be thrown open to a wider travel community. Meanwhile, the convenience of hassle-free travel to different parts of the world will cement the region’s position as a crossroads, attracting a greater number of business and leisure tourists travelling from Asia and Europe to Africa and the Americas.

Check out this infographic for more on this important effect and make sure to download the full report for free.


Middle East, Research