Projected Haj spending reaches SR17 billion

Updated 30 September 2015

Projected Haj spending reaches SR17 billion

MAKKAH: The volume of spending expected during the current Haj season is approximately SR17 billion, according to Maher Saleh Jamal, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Talking to an online newspaper, Maher Saleh Jamal said that spending is expected to increase during next year's Haj season once the expansion plan of the Holy Mosque in Makkah is completed.
He further confirmed that this year, the Haj and Umrah sectors have been running at a loss due to a reduction in the number of Haj pilgrims coming to the country. The most badly affected sector has reportedly been the accommodation sector, which now has a surplus of 700,000 beds. According to Jamal, all sectors related to Haj have suffered over the past three years due to the expansion project of the Holy Mosque.
Jamal said that the one of the major economic industries in Makkah is the accommodation sector, where massive investments have been made in hotel rooms, apartments, and residential buildings. Regarding spending levels during Haj season, he said that total figures usually reach SR26 billion per year, yet this figure has declined by 20 percent to just SR17 billion since the expansion works began.

Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 44 min ago

Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.