As per a recent announcement, there has been a lift of visa requirements for UAE, Oman and Qatar nationals travelling to the UK. Effective Q1 2014, citizens from the aforementioned three Gulf states visiting the UK, will be able to obtain a free electronic visa waiver 48 hours prior to their planned departure, which replaces the current visa application process. The waiver is also set to be extended to Kuwaiti nationals later next year.
“London is a favourite among GCC travellers who flock in the summer months in search of cooler temperatures. VisitBritain’s 2020 forecast an increase of up to 40% more UAE tourists choosing to spend time in the city, is great news for UK tourism,” said Mark Walsh, portfolio director, Reed Travel Exhibitions.
He further added: “Following the announcement, we have already received a number of enquiries from UK-based companies eager to capitalise on the opportunity with first-time presence at ATM 2014,” added Walsh.
The UK Pavilion is also increasing year-on-year in terms of size and exhibitors. Information published on visa applications suggest that UAE, Oman and Qatar are growing year-on-year led by Kuwaiti visitors who accounted for more than 63,000 applications in 2012, followed by the UAE (30,148), Qatar (20,490) and Oman (12,596).
VisitBritain reports a record 530,000 visitors from the GCC landed on British shores in 2012, representing a six percent increase on 2011. Boosted by global interest in the London Olympics, the UK enjoyed a record year for tourism last year with US$30.46 billion injected into the economy from overseas visitors, of which US$1.97 billion came from the GCC countries. Visitors from the GCC are also among the highest spenders, with an average of US$3,417 per person per visit and the UK is second most visited destination by UAE residents with the number of visits doubling in the last decade.
The new visa waiver applies for short-term visits only with a six-month validity period, however those applying to study in the UK or enter for business, will still need to apply for a visa.