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As Hajj kicks off, Saudi Arabia looks to expand tourism sector

While leisure tourism is gaining momentum in Saudi Arabia, religious tourism still dominates the sector.
FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images

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DUBAI — Muslim pilgrims are getting ready to descend on Mecca for the Hajj, as Saudi Arabia looks to expand its tourism sector beyond religious visits. Pilgrimages lured the majority of the 27 million international tourists who visited the kingdom in 2023 — 13.5 million for the Umrah and 1.7 million for the Hajj — as Saudi Arabia reaps economic dividends from the holy cities Mecca and Medina.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and the Quran states that absent economic barriers, all Muslims should perform the pilgrimage in their lifetime. The National news outlet reported that 2.5 million pilgrims are expected to attend the Hajj this year, including both locals and foreigners.

Tourism ambitions

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