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Will pilgrims assistance Saudi Arabia’s budget?

Cheap oil pushes Saudi Arabia into serve bill cuts

Saudi Arabia has a large oil-shaped hole in a budget. Can eremite tourism assistance block it?

More than dual million pilgrims will transport to Saudi Arabia in a subsequent few days to revisit Islam’s holiest site in Mecca. The tour — or Hajj — is one of a pillars of Islam that all Muslims who are financially and physically means contingency perform once in their lifetime.

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With a visitors comes a golden event for a horde country. Saudi Arabia desperately needs to find other sources of income over oil. And boosting tourism is high adult on a government’s agenda.

The fall in universe oil prices given 2014 has strike Saudi Arabia finances hard. The nation relies on oil for many of a revenue, and a bill necessity swelled to scarcely $100 billion final year as revenues fell by 23%.

Related: OPEC’s apocalyptic finances fuel oil solidify talks

Tourism was value about $22 billion to Saudi Arabia in 2015. But it’s still comparatively small, accounting for only 3.5% of GDP, compared to 40% for oil.

Still, a supervision has desirous skeleton for a zone to assistance ready a nation for life after oil. It wants to attract 30 million general pilgrims a year by 2030, adult from 8 million in 2015.

Around 883,000 people already work in tourism, stuffing scarcely 8% of all jobs in a country. That series could arise to 1.3 million by 2030 if a government’s goals are met, according to McKinsey Global Institute.

hajj mecca

Related: Saudis will shortly be profitable taxation on soda and tobacco

Saudi Arabia is formulation to palliate some visa restrictions to boost caller numbers. It could, for example, concede pilgrims to stay in a nation and transport to other cities after a finish of Hajj. It is also investing heavily in new hotels and spending some-more than $13 million a year renovating chronological sites.

Beyond a eremite sites, Saudi Arabia also boasts ancient monuments, diving in a Red Sea, and a Arabian desert. But attracting some-more physical tourists could be some-more tricky.

“The governmental atmosphere in a Kingdom is substantially not gainful to mass marketplace tourism,” pronounced Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist during Capital Economics.

“But there’s positively range for a Kingdom to build on a end for pilgrims and attract tourists wanting to revisit some of a Kingdom’s healthy landscapes and ancient architecture.”

Related: Chaotic though memorable — experiencing holy pilgrimage

This year’s Hajj could be some-more resigned than in new years after Saudi Arabia and Iran unsuccessful to reach an agreement that would concede Iranian pilgrims to transport to Mecca. Iran announced in May that it would be banning a pilgrims from behaving Hajj, since of political tensions between a dual countries.

Iranians are one of a biggest groups of visitors to Saudi Arabia, with estimated 600,000 entrance final year.

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