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Haj, Umra revenue account for about 7pc of Saudi GDP

LAHORE: The economics of Haj pilgrimage and revenues netted by the Saudi Arabian government is absolutely recession-proof if one examines the various calculations carried out between 2009 and 2014 by the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Saudi government’s Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, leading Saudi newspapers like the

By Sabir Shah
September 29, 2015
LAHORE: The economics of Haj pilgrimage and revenues netted by the Saudi Arabian government is absolutely recession-proof if one examines the various calculations carried out between 2009 and 2014 by the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Saudi government’s Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, leading Saudi newspapers like the “Saudi Gazette” and the “Arab News,” the UAE-based “Gulf News” and even by some leading Western media outlets like the “BBC,” the “Guardian” and the premier Russian news agency “Sputnik News.”
An archival research hence conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” shows that just two months before the start of the October 2014 Haj season, a well-subscribed Jeddah-based English newspaper “The Saudi Gazette” and the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry had estimated the Saudi Arabian government was expected to earn revenues to the tune of Saudi Riyals 32 billion or $8.5 billion from the annual pilgrimage that year.
In its August 25, 2014, the “Saudi Gazette” had cited the Makkah Chamber’s calculations, according to which, the revenues from the world’s largest annual gathering of over two million Muslims was likely to increase by three per cent from 2013.
The calculations were based on estimates that 1.98 million pilgrims would travel to the holy city of Makkah, including 1.38 million or approximately 70 per cent foreigner——a massive logistical challenge—-though, according to the “Los Angeles Times,” countries like Iran have begun questioning the ability of the Saudis when it comes to managing this daunting task!!
Having a daily circulation of over 50,000, the “Saudi Gazette” had further stated: “A pilgrim who has travelled from another country will spend an average of SR17, 381 ($4,633) during Haj, which runs for five days. A domestic worshipper pays around SR4, 948 ($1,319). Expenses include housing, food and water, gifts and phone bills.”
However, another Jeddah-based English newspaper “The Arab News” had published far higher Haj revenues of Saudi government in 2013.
In its January 5, 2013 edition, the “Arab News” had stated: “Economists have estimated the Kingdom’s revenues from Haj and Umrah services in 2012 at more than SR 62 billion ($16.5 billion), 10 per cent up from 2011 figures. They also said that Haj revenue accounted for three percent of the country’s GDP.”
It is imperative to note that the “Arab News” has a circulation of nearly 52,000 daily and is one of the 29 publications published by the Saudi Research and Publishing Company, which is headed by King Salman’s son Prince Turki bin Salman Al Saud.
In its October 25, 2012 edition, the prestigious BBC had quoted the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry as saying that during the 2011 Haj season, the 10-day event had generated some $10 billion.
The BBC had maintained: “The annual occasion has become a lucrative business in recent years, proving a great financial asset to the economy of the oil-rich kingdom. Many pilgrims, however, struggle to reconcile their spiritual needs with their wallets. However much it costs, Muslims will not stop coming to this spiritual and also commercial hub. They simply cannot do Haj anywhere else.”
Meanwhile, this is what a leading British newspaper “The Guardian” had stated in one of its November 2010 editions: “The government’s Commission for Tourism and Antiquities said revenue from tourism this year (2010) would reach $17.6bn, then almost double again by 2015.”
In its November 29, 2009 reports, a key Russian news agency “Sputnik” had reported: “Saudi Arabia’s annual revenue from organising pilgrimage to Islamic holy places tops $30 billion.”
The “Sputnik” had basically quoted a 2009 report of the UAE-based “Gulf News,” which had written a few days earlier that the average cost of sacrificed animals averaged $130 per pilgrim and other expenses included purchases of gifts and spending on telecommunications.
“The Gulf News” had further viewed: “Over two million Muslims have been visiting Makkah, Madina and other holy places in Saudi Arabia every Haj season in recent years. Millions of Muslims also perform Umrah or “mini pilgrimage” throughout the year. Saudi Arabia’s revenues from pilgrimage to Islamic holy places account for about 7 per cent of the country’s GDP.”