World Bulletin / News Desk
Saudi Arabia decided to broaden its Hajj pilgrimage services to reduce dependence on falling oil revenues, the Saudi Gazette said Friday.
The pilgrimage industry is the country's second most important after oil and gas. Nearly two million foreign pilgrims visit the holy city of Mecca annually during Hajj. The figure is expected to reach 2.7 million by 2020.
National Tourism Committee member Abdul Ghani Al-Ansari emphasized the need to restructure the sector to make it a major contributor to the national economy.
According to economists, religious pilgrimages such as Hajj and Umrah have significant growth potential and the ability to create more job opportunities for young Saudis. The tourism sector contributes $22.6 billion to Saudi Arabia's GDP with Hajj and Umrah providing $12 billion.
The annual revenue from the Hajj season is estimated to be at $5.3-6.1 billion.
The Kingdom is facing a budget deficit which is expected to reach $87 billion this year. The crude price crisis has had an impact on the economy as oil sales account for almost 80 percent of the country's revenue. Saudi Arabia's foreign reserves fell to $640 billion last year from $737 billion in 2014.Last Mod: 25 Mart 2016, 17:03