Spike in religious tourism expected, says Zamzam CEO
According to some reports, religious tourists will rise exponentially over the next few years to make up for lost time over the pandemic. Saudi Arabia welcomed up to 17.5 million religious tourists in 2019 and the number is expected to rise to 25 to 30 million by 2025.
The absence of millions of Muslim pilgrims has significantly impacted hotel performance in Saudi Arabia, STR found out in its latest research in partnership with ATM Dubai. Madinah and Makkah witnessed RevPAR rates of just 33 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively, in 2021. But the return to pre-pandemic normalcy in the kingdom is all set to change that in 2022.
We speak to Omar Siraj Akbar, CEO of Zamzam.com, a user-friendly platform offering reliable a B2B/B2C Umrah booking search engine, for more insight.
“The eVisa facility that allows tourists from certain countries to obtain a tourist visa in less than five minutes is one of the biggest leaps that has been seen over the past few years,” Akbar tells TTN. “The government has a broader vision to facilitate and promote tourism in the Kingdom. It encompasses all the elements from historical, cultural, religious and leisure perspectives. A tourist arriving in Saudi Arabia can have all the experiences in a unified trip. The facilitation has been exemplary ranging from multilingual tour guides, public awareness through mobile app, VR and AR based tours to distant places and much more.”
The Saudi Arabian government has announced several initiatives and strategies to strengthen its transportation system and logistics services in preparation for receiving up to 30 million pilgrims for Hajj and Umrah each year by 2030.
“With the pandemic shaking global markets, the curve had slipped but it is on the rise again. The government is restructuring and building new facilities all across the two holy cities, Makkah and Madinah to facilitate and accommodate more pilgrims.
“For instance, Masar Makkah project is model development destination of Umm Alqura for Development and Construction with the slogan ‘Dedicated to Makkah’. An integrated development infrastructure spanning up to total area of 1.25 million square metres that adopts the concept of comprehensive mobility to serve Makkah residents, visitors, and pilgrims and facilitate their access to the Grand Mosque.”
Meanwhile, airline partnerships are also doing a stellar job of increasing pilgrim flow from previously unexpected quarters. The very interesting Saudia seasonal flight connecting AlUla to Paris direct is one such example.
“The partnership will encourage more travellers to visit and unravel the destination, increasing inbound tourism in Saudi Arabia. The legacy of culture, heritage and history that AlUla carries is an amalgamation of the past and the future. Once the tourists visit AlUla, they may not only be confined to the place, but rather explore nearby opportunities as well. This shall be a great contribution to the economy. With the right offerings in place, inbound tourists (both Muslims and non-Muslims) will be definitely interested to explore the neighbouring historical and religious sites that will contribute to religious tourism equally,” says Akbar.
“Zamzam is open for everyone and anyone seeking Umrah services, to have a divine experience. We don’t merely focus on the high-end market consumer but we aim to serve amass of pilgrims with quality of service. Our customer service, an eye for details in dedication to serve the holy guests and be the leading Umrah service provider is what differentiates us from the market.”