Oman and Saudi Arabia have agreed to introduce a joint tourist visa. This is an important step to boost tourism and travel between both countries. Travellers from the United Kingdom and Ireland often require a visa for both countries.
The introduction of a joint tourist visa
During the Arabian Travel Market of 2023, the Omani Minister of Tourism and Heritage, Salem Al Mahrooqi, and his Saudi counterpart, Ahmad Al Khatib, have agreed to cooperate in introducing a joint tourist visa. The purpose of this visa is to boost tourism to both countries and promote trade between the two countries to strengthen economic ties. The joint tourist visa was one of the tourism initiatives discussed during this event. In addition to the introduction of this visa, the realisation of seasonal flights and a joint tourism agenda were also discussed, for example. These include, for instance, round trips visiting both Gulf states.
Plans for a broader joint visa
The introduction of this joint tourist visa for Oman and Saudi Arabia follows plans to introduce a broader joint visa for the Gulf states. This visa, similar to the Schengen visa used in Europe, should facilitate travel between the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The member states of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar believe that introducing a joint tourist visa will make it more attractive for tourists to travel to the region. They are confident that introducing such a visa will also have a positive influence on the economic welfare of the entire Gulf region.
Joint visa also meant for international travellers?
Initially, the joint tourist visa was mainly aimed at making it easier for citizens of Oman and Saudi Arabia to travel between the two Gulf states. In the first three months of 2023, about 164,000 Omani tourists travelled to Saudi Arabia, an increase of about 136% in comparison to the same period in 2022. Conversely, in the same period in 2023, over 49,000 Saudi tourists visited the more southern Oman, which is an increase of about 92% in comparison to 2022.
The visa programme may be extended
There is a growing interest in making the visa scheme available to tourists from other countries as well, including the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is therefore likely that Saudi Arabia and Oman will expand the joint visa programme. If that happens, it is likely that international tourists from neighbouring Gulf states and European countries can visit both Oman and Saudi Arabia with a single visa. No official news has yet come out about the possible addition of more countries to the visa programme.
Tourism to the Gulf region: the World Cup in Qatar
Many Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Oman, made many investments to welcome the large number of tourists travelling to the region in 2022 to attend one of the World Cup matches. In addition, a number of countries relaxed their entry requirements. For example, Saudi Arabia introduced the Hayya Card, a free travel document allowing tourists who had valid tickets for one of the World Cup matches to enter the country. Oman relaxed its entry requirements as well. Travellers who had a ticket for a World Cup match were able to use this ticket as a valid entry visa to Oman. In addition, Oman facilitated charter flights at reduced prices between Muscat, the capital of Oman, and Doha, Qatar. Since the World Cup in Qatar, tourism in the country has increased by over 347%. In January and February 2023, over 730,000 tourists travelled to Qatar.
The World Cup of 2022 in Qatar has shown that a joint visa could possibly be beneficial to the growth of tourism in the Gulf region. Additionally, during the World Cup, it was proven that the Gulf states could work together towards a common goal.
Advantages of the joint tourist visa
If the joint tourist visa between Oman and Saudi Arabia also becomes available for European tourists, it will become a lot easier for British and Irish tourists, among others, to travel to these countries. First, international tourists will no longer have to apply for visas for both countries separately. As mentioned earlier, these tourists can then visit both countries with one visa, enjoying a more streamlined travel experience. In addition, it allows them to visit both countries more easily, giving them more flexibility in exploring the rich cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes and historical monuments of both Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Visa requirements for a trip to Oman
At the moment, travellers with British or Irish nationality who want to travel to Oman only have to apply for an Oman visa if they wish to stay in the country longer than 14 days. For a trip shorter than that, they do not require a visa. The Oman visa can easily be applied for online with a digital application form.
In this application form, travellers have the choice of three different variants of the Oman tourist visa. The cost of the visa depends on the chosen variant. There are two different single-entry visas, and in addition, travellers can also choose a multiple-entry visa. First, there is a single-entry visa for a stay of up to 10 days, costing £49.95. The other single-entry visa can be used for a stay of up to 30 days, costing £89.95. In addition, there is a multiple-entry variant. This variant of the visa is valid for 1 year and costs £159.95. With a multiple-entry visa, travellers can travel to Oman multiple times within the validity period of the visa. For the multiple-entry variant, a maximum duration of stay of 30 days also applies.