VisitBritian has welcomed the announcement of a new visa waiver scheme which will make it cheaper and easier for business travellers and tourists to visit the UK from Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait.
From 1 January 2014, passport holders in Qatar, Oman and the UAE wanting to travel to the UK for less than six months will be able to obtain an online visa waiver (EVW) document 48 hours before travel, rather than apply for a visa. Similar arrangements will be extended to Kuwait later next year.
As a result, travellers will not be required to provide biometrics, attend a visa application centre or hand in passports prior to travel.
However, anyone who wants to work, study, enter into a civil partnership or marriage or visit the UK for longer than six months will still have to obtain a visa.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain said: "Britain is a popular destination for residents of the Gulf States. Last year saw a record 37% increase in the value of Gulf residents' spending in Britain - that's also a record average of £3,555 per visitor.
"We know there is already a huge aspiration to travel to Britain to shop and to enjoy our attractions and events, so we're delighted that the recent visa changes will make it easier to get here, and to come more often. If current trends continue, we are set to see another record year for Arab visitors in 2013."
The UK is the second most visited destination by residents of the UAE with the number of visits doubling in the last ten years. Leisure visits predominantly take place in July to September, with London being the most popular destination.