Bahrain e-visa project to increase visitor figures
Streamlined visa processes are essential to stimulate visitor figures, according to a Bahraini government tourism official, who said that online visa application facilities have proved highly successful since their recent introduction.
Bader Nasser, head of marketing for tourism affairs for the government of Bahrain, highlighted the Kingdom’s e-visa initiative as a “necessary measure” if the drive for fast and seamless immigration processes for business and leisure travellers is to be met.
The Bahrain e-visa project – a first for the Middle East and one of only a handful in the world – comes as the topic of visa restrictions comes under the spotlight at the first-ever Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, to be held in Dubai on April 30 – May 2.
Bahrain was the first country in the Middle East and one of the only countries in the world to issue online visit visas to simplify – and “fast track” - its immigration processes. To date, an average of 1,500 visas are downloaded a month, with numbers expected to double during the next 12 months.
The e-visa initiative is the first phase of a drive to move all of Bahrain’s immigration processes online.
Nasser said: “For too long, the issue of visas in Arabia has blighted the attempts of the tourism authorities especially to stimulate visitor numbers. We are pioneering the switch to e-visas as part of our strategy to become a tourism destination of the future.”
Residents of 33 countries outside the GCC can apply online at www.evisa.gov.bh, allowing them to download their visit visa anywhere in the world before travelling to the Kingdom. Those able to take advantage of these facilities include UK, US, Australia and most European passport-holders.
Nasser said: “While the ideal scenario is still a single visa for Arabia to facilitate travel between the Gulf states, we have to look at new and innovative ways to make the immigration process as smooth and simple as possible for international visitors.”
The visit visas are valid for two weeks for a fee of BD7 (US$18.50) enabling travellers to fast-track the arrival process in Bahrain by completing the visa process ahead of time rather than on arrival. In addition, the downloaded visa removes the need to pay in local currency.