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Unprecedented hotel occupancy in Makkah

Pilgrims are seen strolling under the scorching sun near hotels in the Central Area around the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sunday. – Okaz photo
Pilgrims are seen strolling under the scorching sun near hotels in the Central Area around the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sunday. – Okaz photo

MAKKAH – With Ramadan’s advent in the summer season this year, hotels here have reached an unprecedented occupancy rates. The majority of hotels are now closed for reservations.
Hotels of all classes particularly in the Central Area in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque have had about 80 percent occupancy rate, the highest in the past years, as nearly 1,000 buildings have been demolished in the Jabal Omar Project. This coupled with the presence of about 400,000 Umrah pilgrims from the beginning of the summer season has led to an unusual demand. The hotels have also increased their rates.
Occupancy in the first quarter of Ramadan is expected to reach 100 percent. According to statistics, the majority of pilgrims come from Iran, followed by Egypt and countries in Southeast Asia like Malaysia and Indonesia. Local pilgrims are equal in number to those from Gulf countries.
Muhammad Hausawi, an hotel employee near the Grand Mosque, said from Wednesdays to Fridays, visitors cannot find a single vacant room or suite, while the pressure is a little less on other days. He said this has been the case since the beginning of summer vacation this year.
Reservations are being made more than two weeks before the arrival of Umrah pilgrims, he said. More workers have been employed in hotels and they are required to work extra hours due to the pressure from the high occupancy rate.
Salim Sultan, a hotel receptionist, said Umrah season this year has been successful so far and it is expected to continue successfully during Ramadan.
Hamoud Al-Malki, another receptionist, confirmed the high charges now in hotels. He said many hotels, especially those near the Grand Mosque, have started closing all bookings till the end of Ramadan.
Nasr Abdul Wahid, manager of a hotel near the Haram, said the charges were reasonable and affordable by all. Each Umrah pilgrim can find accommodation to suit his financial capability. He said the charges in the residential towers in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque range between SR160 and SR450 depending on the type of service, the accommodation class and how far it is from the Haram. He said hotels and residential towers are almost fully booked, with 70 percent of guests from abroad and 30 percent from within the Kingdom and Gulf countries.
Ali Khassib, an expatriate working in a clothes and games shop, said the demand for commodities and goods in shops was as usual in Sha’aban, but with the advent of Ramadan there was a bigger turnover, as Umrah pilgrims were purchasing plenty of gifts.
Waleed Abu Sab’ah, Chairman of the Tourism and Hotels Committee in Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that the Umrah season is witnessing a strong beginning with occupancy reaching 80 percent in the Central Area and 50-60 percent in hotels located in different districts of Makkah. He said the high rate of bookings and the strong beginning of the season were contrary to some predictions that there would be a decrease in the number of Umrah pilgrims this year.

by: By Ibrahim Khudhair and Eidha Al-Shareef