JEDDAH — The lifting of a 20 percent cut in Haj pilgrims’ quota will help Saudi businesses in Makkah compensate for the SR60 billion losses they suffered over the past four years when the measure was implemented due to Haram expansion projects, said Maher Jamal, chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).
“We have estimated the total losses suffered by relevant sectors in Makkah as a result of a 20 percent reduction in the quota at SR60 billion. The cut continued for four years with an annual loss of SR15 billion,” Jamal told Al-Watan Arabic daily.
He commended the Saudi government’s efforts to expand the two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah, spending billions of riyals to accommodate large numbers of pilgrims who come to perform Haj and Umrah.
“The expansion of the mataf (the circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) and prayer areas at the Grand Mosque in Makkah will enhance the comfort of pilgrims and other worshippers,” the chairman said.
Jamal highlighted the economic impact of the recent decision taken by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to lift the 20 percent reduction in the quota at national and international levels.
“This will increase Haj flights to the Kingdom from all over the world operated by different airlines.”
He expected a substantial increase in Haj and Umrah services in the coming years.
Jamal said the increase in the number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims this year and in the coming years will boost the Kingdom’s economy.
“The royal gesture to lift the cut in the quota will make Muslims all over the world happy as a large number of them intend to visit the holy places in Makkah and Madinah.”
He believed that the housing sector in Makkah will be the greatest beneficiary of the decision, followed by the businesses involved in transportation, food and catering, retail trade, gifts and electronics, and all other service providers including the health sector.
Jamal stressed the government’s efforts to improve infrastructure facilities for pilgrims.
He said the Haramain Railway, which is expected to start operation next year, will bring about a paradigm shift in pilgrim transportation between the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
He expected considerable growth in air transport between Saudi Arabia and other countries as a result of a remarkable increase in Haj and Umrah pilgrims.
The MCCI chairman highlighted the growing private sector role in the Haj and Umrah sector where many businessmen have invested more money to set up various service projects that would benefit pilgrims. These projects include construction of hotels and purchasing of modern buses.
There was a 10-year low in number of Haj pilgrims from across the world in 2016.
A total of 1,325,372 foreign Hajis and 537,537 domestic pilgrims performed Haj in the year bringing the total to 1.86 million, which is much lower than a record 3.16 million pilgrims who performed Haj in 2012.