Twenty Middle East tourism ministers and industry leaders met in Dubai at ATM’s UN World Tourism Organisation Ministerial Forum to discuss an intra-Arab strategy.
Among the ideas floated were:
- A single Gulf visa, similar to the European Schengen visa, to allow easy cross-border access for the region’s nationals and residents of any nationality.
- An open skies agreement to increase air capacity between Arab countries.
- Employing more nationals in the tourism industry and encouraging them to work in countries across the whole region.
- A joint rebranding of the Middle East as a safe destination for tourists.
Tourism ministers from the region, including Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco, agreed a single visa would be a step forward for intra-Arab tourism.
David Scowsill, World Travel and Tourism Council president and chief executive, added: “We need visa integration. Automated and electronic is the way forward.”
UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai concluded that the region’s tourism industry should develop more promotional packages that cross national borders.
He highlighted the cruise sector as an example of how this was already working.
Qatar is supportive of the ideas. Qatar Tourism Authority chairman Issa Mohammed Al Mohannadi said the moves would also encourage the high number of expatriates working in the region to visit neighbouring countries, not only for business but for leisure as well.
Arabian Travel Market attracted more than 400 confirmed exhibitors from 86 countries. This year’s event included 113 new exhibitors.