By Fatima Muhammad
MADINAH – Sources told Saudi Gazette that all hotels in the Central Area of Madinah, near the Prophet’s Mosque, have been fully occupied by visitors. They also confirmed that Umrah pilgrims are now coming from many different countries including Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya Jordan and others.
Abdul Ghani Al-Ansari, a board member of Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the long period now offered for Umrah has reflected positively on the hotel sector and other businesses in the city.
However, Al-Ansari said that the new expansion of the Holy Mosque in Madinah has resulted in closing down over 20 hotels in the Central Area.
This has resulted in a loss of over 3,000 rooms; urgent replacement of the lost capacity is required to meet the increasing demand, Al-Ansari said.
When asked about the number of visitors, Al-Ansari said, “We are hoping to hit 4.8 million visitors by the end of the year.”
Asked if the water crisis in Madinah has affected the season or services provided to visitors, Al-Ansari said, “The Central Area has first priority and will not get affected as preference is always given to visitors.”
Mohammad Tawhid who has been in the Umrah business industry for 20 years said that his company has already issued Umrah visas for 13,000 pilgrims. He is hoping this number to hit 320,000 in Ramadan.
Tawhid recalls when Madinah used to have only four hotels some 15 years ago.
“Even those hotels were hardly occupied in peak times. With more than 400 hotels in the Central Area now, we still find difficulty finding accommodation for some visitors in peak times,” said Tawhid.
According to Tawhid, the prices tend to double as Ramadan gets closer.
“Even in Ramadan, the prices tend to increase every five days. For a room that would cost SR320 now, by the 25th of Ramadan the same room would cost no less than SR1,100.”
The total income from last year’s Haj and Umrah seasons was SR58 billion. This number is subject to increase if more Umrah pilgrims come this year, he added.