Monday, May 7, 2018
JEDDAH — The Ministry of Haj and Umrah takes two factors into consideration before approving an investment project presented by the private sector; use of new technology and a quick time-bound implementation, Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh Benten has said. “We are tired of projects that take years to be implemented,” the minister said and added that to get immediate approvals for projects, the investors will have to move away from traditional ideas and implement new technologies.
According to Benten, between 70 and 90 percent of pilgrims are elderly. He explained that they want to change the wrong notion in most countries of the world about the difficulty in finalizing procedures to come for Haj and Umrah. He added that different agencies can contribute by encouraging youth to come for Haj and Umrah.
Speaking at the opening session on the second day of Makkah Economic Forum, Benten criticized local small and medium investors in Umrah business.
He said they “surprised” them by seeking quick money by investing in the sector instead of putting two to three year plans to develop themselves and learn. In addition, he said some 280 of these companies have all head toward one country which they believe could bring them easy profit.
He added that owners of small Umrah companies think that these businesses are just jobs that can bring money quickly.
Up to 30 government departments — including the Ministry of Haj and Umrah — are putting a strategy to serve and bring more pilgrims to the Kingdom through easing the processes by applying new technologies and e-services, Benten said.
He added that they are also keen to provide an encouraging environment to the investors.
The minister also highlighted the different investment opportunities which they offer in relation to Haj and Umrah. This, he said, include establishing and developing new projects in the infrastructure sector, providing new technology models to ease government processes including the Jawazat system. Some investors can also provide Haj-related supervision and assessment services, he said.
Other projects include providing accommodation, transportation and catering services to pilgrims. “We do not want hotel owners to provide all services by themselves; there could be investors who can provide catering and cleaning services to pilgrims,” said the minister.
Among the opportunities which Benten highlighted is the slaughterhouse and the benefit of Haj meat. The Saudi Project for Utilization of Haj Meat project currently run by the Islamic Development Bank, he said, can offer a great opportunity to investors who might benefit from the location around the year which is used only during the Haj season. Investors can also provide tour services around the year to visitors who want to see holy sites and provide them with accurate information instead of the current situation were pilgrims are provided with false information from individuals guiding them.
Makkah, said the minister, needs business development that can provide a distinctive experience to pilgrims starting from the services provided and areas that pilgrims can visit. He said they need to develop a Makkah public market where souvenirs, dates and handmade products can be displayed and where traditional Makkah culture can be shown to the pilgrims. This market, he said, can be supplied with local products that pilgrims would be keen to take back home.
Study expects pilgrims to be 4 million in 2025