A riyal money spinner: Pilgrims add 3 per cent to Saudi GDP
Economists have estimated the Kingdom’s revenues from Haj and Umrah services in 2012 at more than SR 62 billion ($ 16.5 billion), 10 percent up from 2011 figures. They also said that Haj revenue accounted for three percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Fahd Al-Andeejani, professor of economics, said there are good prospects for the development of national industries. “We need more specialized markets to meet the needs of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah,” he added.
The professor said there are good prospects to establish Asian, European and American restaurants in Makkah and Madinah while highlighting the growing purchasing power of Saudis as a result of increase in salaries and oil prices.
Al-Andeejani estimated the annual expenditure of an Umrah pilgrim at $ 10,000. More than seven million pilgrims come to the Kingdom for Haj and Umrah and the money they spend could boost the Kingdom’s economy.
He called for providing world-class services to Haj and Umrah pilgrims. A lot of investments are required for this purpose. He estimated the Kingdom’s total revenue from Haj and Umrah at more than SR 62 billion.
Al-Andeejani called for greater efforts to create more job opportunities for Saudis during the Haj and Umrah seasons.
“Despite the large Haj and Umrah market, the sale of Saudi products including gift items was low,” said Khaled Al-Qurashi, owner of a Haj and Umrah service company. He said handicrafts of Saudi productive families lacked marketing channels required for its success. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic daily, Al-Qurashi said Saudi gift items are facing big competition from Chinese products. He stressed the need for strengthening the capabilities of young Saudi men and women in making innovative gift items with a Makkah and Madinah touch for sale among pilgrims and other visitors.
He believed that Saudi products could make a revenue of SR 500 million to SR 800 million annually if properly marketed.
Fahd Al-Kabkabi, owner of shops selling souvenirs and gifts, urged Saudi youth to start small and medium enterprises to produce gift items to market among pilgrims.
“This is a potential area for young Saudi entrepreneurs to enter and progress. It can also create more jobs for Saudis,” he added. “We need more gift items made in Saudi Arabia to distribute among pilgrims.” Al-Kabkabi urged traders to promote Saudi products by giving them good display at their shops.
According to Abdul Hameed Abalarry, director of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, about six million foreign pilgrims performed Umrah in 2012.
He spoke about the coordination between the Haj Ministry and the General Authority of Civil Aviation in dispatching pilgrims to the airport, saying the ministry has agreed not to send any pilgrim to the airport without confirmed booking.
GACA officials at the Haj Terminal’s entrance make sure that only those pilgrims with confirmed booking are allowed to enter the airport in order to avoid overcrowding of passengers, he said.
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