Removal of Saudi pilgrim limits to compensate for $16bn of losses – official

Limits were placed on domestic and international pilgrims to undertake expansion work at the kingdom’s holy mosques



The lifting of quota restrictions on foreign and domestic pilgrims will help compensate for SAR60bn ($15.9bn) of annual losses suffered by businesses during expansion work of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, an official has said.

King Salman announced plans to lift the restrictions, which include a 20 per cent reduction in the quota for foreign pilgrims from each country and 50 per cent reduction in domestic pilgrims, this week.

This followed a 10-year low of 1.86 million haj pilgrims last year, down from a 2012 peak of 3.16 million.

Read: Drop in haj visitors hits Saudi businesses

“We have estimated the total losses suffered by relevant sectors in Makkah as a result of a 20 percent reduction in the quota at SAR60n,” Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Maher Jamal told local daily Al-Watan

“The cut continued for four years with an annual loss of SAR15bn.”

Saudi Arabia has spent billions of riyals to increase the number of pilgrims the holy mosques at Makkah and Madinah can accommodate.

Renovations at Makkah’s Grand Mosque and nearby hotels will let the holy city accommodate 3.7 million haj pilgrims in 2020 and 6.7 million by 2042.

Jamal predicted a substantial increase in Haj and Umrah pilgrim services in the coming years following the lifting of the quota and said Haj flights would increase.

He said the housing sector and businesses involved in transportation, food, catering, retail, gifts and electronics would be the main beneficiaries.

Saudi Arabia plans to raise annual pilgrim numbers to 30 million by 2030 from the 8 million seen in 2016.

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