As oil prices plummet across the globe, the world’s largest crude oil exporter Saudi Arabia is looking to boost its economy by promoting other sectors such as religious pilgrimage. And just like oil, religious tourism is also a type of natural resource for Saudi Arabia since the holiest site in Islam, the Great Mosque of Mecca, is located in Saudi Arabia. The pilgrimage of thousands of Muslims to Mecca allows Saudi Arabia to earn billions of dollars each year. According to data gathered by Saudi authorities, around 2.35 million Muslims are taking part in the haji this year, the pilgrimage to the western Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, which is considered as one of the five pillars of Islam.
Out of the total pilgrims, nearly 1.75 million have come from 168 foreign countries. Maher Jamal, head of Mecca’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the money spent by hajis this year could be 20 to 25 billion riyals (5.3 to 6.7 billion dollars). This will be an increase of nearly 70 percent over last year’s figures. The hajis play a significant role in boosting the local economy, as they spend money on food, lodging, souvenirs and gifts. As part of its plan to boost religious tourism, Saudi Arabia has planned to attract 6 million hajis every year by 2030. It also plans to promote other religious pilgrimages such as Umrah.