MAKKAH — Pilgrim accommodation owners allegedly lost SR2 billion this Haj season due to the cut in pilgrim quotas because of the ongoing expansion work at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Real Estate Committee chief Al-Sharif Abu Rayyaf said investors in the real-estate sector need a public sector authority to deal with the accommodation of pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah during Haj season.
“The authority should be responsible for distributing the pilgrims between the two cities, supervising their check-in and check-out, providing reports of head counts to building owners. The authority must also control foreign and local investors to make sure the market does not get monopolized,” said Abu Rayyaf.
He said building owners are angry because there were around a million empty beds which could have been occupied by pilgrims.
“The accommodation capacity for pilgrims in hotels and buildings was much higher than the number of pilgrims this year,” said Abu Rayyaf.
Nasser Al-Zahrani, a building owner, said, “We lost a lot of money this season. The building owners were not informed about the exact number of expected pilgrims.”
He said some pilgrims only paid SR500 for residence and services which is an extremely low price.
Ali Al-Jaifi, another building owner, said the Saudi Authority for Tourism and Antiquity needs to regulate the pilgrims accommodation sector.
Spending levels during Haj season, which usually reached SR26 billion per year, has declined by 20 percent to just SR17 billion since the expansion work began.
However, a section of the Arabic press quoted Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar as saying that from next Haj season, the number of pilgrims will increase to 5 million and then to 30 million in the coming five years.