The new digital travel permit system is expected to increase visits and investments in the United Kingdom (UK).
Jordan and GCC citizens must have a valid UK ETA for travel to the UK on and after 22 February 2024.
The GCC bloc comprises the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
This scheme expansion follows the successful launch for Qatari citizens who have been using it since November 2023.
Qataris have been steadily applying for an ETA for the UK since it opened to serve them in October 2023.
They have been using the ETA scheme for trips to the UK on and after 15 November 2023.
The UK ETA scheme replaces the electronic visa waiver (EVW) system Gulf citizens were required to obtain before each visit to the UK.
It also removes the visa requirement for short stays in the UK for Jordanian visitors.
The new UK ETA scheme is expected to cause a surge in visits and spending in the country.
Travel to the UK is now cheaper for Gulf visitors with the ETA scheme
With the new ETA scheme, the cost of entry into the UK will be significantly cheaper for Gulf travelers.
Citizens of GCC member states who wish to visit the UK pay £30 per visit for an electronic visa waiver (EVW).
On the other hand, Jordanians who need a UK Standard Visitor visa to visit the UK pay £100 per visit.
A UK ETA application costs only £10 each. If granted, it will be valid for two years or until the passport it is linked to expires.
As long as they have a valid ETA, Gulf travelers can visit the UK multiple times for short stays of up to 6 months per visit.
Unlike the EVW or Standard Visitor visa, Gulf bloc and Jordanian citizens do not need to apply for an ETA for each visit to the UK.
Applying for an ETA is also more accessible because the pre-screening process is entirely online and paperless.
ETA applicants do not need paper documents or in-person appointments at consulates or visa offices.
A valid ETA is typically issued within three days of application, but most applicants receive it within hours.
ETA scheme expected to increase UK visits and spending
In a statement, UK Home Office Home Secretary James Cleverly said visitors from the Gulf bloc and Jordan “represent our second largest tourism market and contribute billions to the UK economy.”
“We all benefit from the boost to trade, education, and tourism ties ETAs will bring,” added Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
The UAE ambassador to the UK, Mansoor Abulhoul, has also welcomed the initiative, reported The National.
He shared that it will simplify visits in terms of accessibility, affordability, and speed.
“Emirato visitors spend a lot of money here, and there’s a lot of repeat visits, so it’s. a real plus for the UK economy,” said Abulhoul in a video.
The UK government estimated around 800,000 visitors from Gulf countries in 2022.
Additionally, about three-quarters of UAE visitors make repeat visits to the UK.
Spending by visitors from the six GCC countries contributed £2 million to the UK economy during their stays in 2022.
That year, UAE visitors’ spending alone accounted for nearly £800 million to the UK economy.
The next highest spenders in the UK among the Gulf bloc countries in 2022 are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Tourism forecast for UK Gulf visitors
“We expect more visitors from the GCC to take advantage of the ease and affordability of ETA scheme and travel to the UK,” VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates told Arabian Business.
On average, Gulf tourists spent £2,578 on their trips to the UK in 2023.
They also took longer trips of up to 16 nights compared to the market average of eight.
Gulf nationals contributed almost $1.2 billion to the UK economy in 2023, driven mainly by tourist and visitor spending.
In 2024, VisitBritian’s international campaigns will focus on the valuable GCC market, among others.
It forecasts that GCC visitors’ spending in the UK will return to pre-pandemic level this year, with further growth expected in 2025.
“VisitBritain is also working with travel trade and partners in the Gulf, so British destinations are sold internationally and to drive bookings now,” shared Yates.
She added, “We look forward to welcoming even more visitors to experience our vibrant and dynamic tourism offer.”