Hotel occupancy to double year-on-year in Saudi after Hajj, Jeddah Season: Report

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Saudi Arabia is benefitting from a huge boom in tourism in 2022 after the return of more than a million Muslims to the 2022 Hajj pilgrimage and the popular Jeddah Season, with hotel occupancy doubling year-on-year, according to a new report.

Pilgrims from abroad returned for Hajj after two years of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which authorities allowed only Saudi residents to perform the pilgrimage.

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Saudi Arabia welcomed up to one million pilgrims, mostly from abroad, this year, to visit Islam’s two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina – and it has already had a massive impact on the country’s tourism industry, according to Christopher Lund, head of hotels for the MENA region at advisory firm Colliers International, which just published a report on hotel occupancy in the Kingdom.

The Hajj season is a major source of prestige and tourism for Saudi Arabia.

A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), southeast of the holy city of Mecca, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage, early on July 8, 2022. (AFP)
A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), southeast of the holy city of Mecca, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage, early on July 8, 2022. (AFP)

Analysis from Colliers International’s latest Mena Hotel Forecast suggests a massive bounce back for the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia in 2022.

In Mecca, an increase of 106 percent in occupancy is expected compared to 2021 and an 80 percent increase is expected in Medina.

The two cities represent the biggest leap in year-on-year hotel occupancy rates across the GCC region.

The Colliers report also noted that Saudi Arabia’s hugely popular Riyadh Season, which returned in May and offered 2,800 activities and entertainment offerings over two months, also offered a welcome boom for the rest of the Kingdom, as did an influx of tourists during Ramadan.

Jeddah will see a five percent leap in the year-on-year forecast in 2022, while Riyadh will see a jump of nine percent.

“The Mecca hotel market is expected to end 2022 with a 106 percent increase in occupancy compared to 2021,” Lund told Al Arabiya English. “This is partially due to a low base in 2021, but mainly due to a strong Ramadan season which was better than most hotels had expected, with a higher occupancy rate than Ramadan in 2019, pre-COVID.”

He continued, “This performance was achieved despite some of the large source markets for Mecca still being affected from significantly reduced travel (Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Pakistan, etc) – which means that we expect a large pent-up demand for Mecca market in the coming years and are optimistic about this market’s outlook.”

Lund said Riyadh, al-Khobar and Medina are forecasted to reach a higher occupancy rate in 2022 than 2019, pre-COVID, showing the strength of the come-back of the Saudi market.

“This is a result of several factors, such as a strong corporate return, increase in leisure tourism from events such as Riyadh Season and a strong Ramadan period,” he concluded.

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