UAE Offers 5-Year Tourist Visa as Neighbors Vie for Visitors

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(Bloomberg) –Tourist visas to the United Arab Emirates will be valid for five years, Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said Monday on Twitter, part of a campaign to lure holiday makers to Gulf countries.

The visas were previously valid for 30 to 90 days.

Gulf nations eager to diversify their economies away from oil have been taking steps to encourage tourism in recent years. Saudi Arabia opened applications for online visas in September, and Qatar scrapped visas altogether for citizens of 80 countries in 2017.

“Economic activity in the U.A.E. has softened in recent years,” said Bilal Khan, senior economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai. “Attracting a greater number of visitors over the could help revive demand over the medium-term,” particularly after the expected boost from this year’s World Expo in Dubai fades, he added.

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Heightened tensions in the region over the U.S.’s killing of Iran’s most powerful general have cast a pall over Gulf states’ tourism marketing plans. On Sunday, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to Americans visiting or living in the U.A.E.

“U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness,” the department wrote on its website. Iran and its Lebanese Hezbollah allies have threatened retaliation for Qassem Soleimani’s death.