Middle East Cruise News

UAE business leader calls for Schengen style visa to grow Middle East cruise market

Middle East governments must ease restrictions on travelling between GCC states to boost the region’s tourism industry and support the fast-developing yachting and cruise markets, says Mohammed Hussein Al Shaali, chairman of the UAE-based yacht builder, Gulf Craft.

“The yachting and cruising tourism market is very profitable and beneficial to the wider economy, so regional governments should look at supporting it through easier regulations,” said Al Shaali. “At the moment the procedures for moving across the region are very complicated and this is a significant challenge for growing the industry.”

According to statistics from the UAE’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), Dubai received more than 500,000 cruise visitors last year against less than 10,000 in 1998, representing staggering growth.

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Cruise Arabia & Africa has said in the past that this growth would be accelerated with a common visa for the GCC. The Middle East cruise market was already boosted last year with the introduction of the UAE’s multiple entry visa, forcing MSC Cruises to extend MSC Musica’s 2015/16 cruise season due to unexpected demand.

Middle East cruise tourism industry members have been campaigning for a Schengen-style system that would allow visitors to GCC states to enter any of them under a single visa, but bureaucracy and politics make such a visa system unlikely in the near future.

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