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Religious tourism boosts Saudi hotel sector
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 21 - 06 - 2009

Religious tourism in Saudi Arabia generates around $7 billion annually, recent reports said, while the government has allocated a total of $38 billion in tourism infrastructure and transport systems, including a high-speed railway system that will link Jeddah, Makkah and Madina - three key travel destinations in the country.
Accordingly, the Elaf Group of Companies, a business organization serving the Saudi Arabian travel, tourism and hotel industries, has announced that it has recently launched a major expansion initiative in the Saudi hotel sector, driven by a significant surge in religious tourism, which according to recent reports has achieved a remarkable 30 percent growth in the first quarter of 2009.
Elaf has particularly prepared for the new Umrah season that started in February 2009, noting a considerable growth trend as around 3.5 million pilgrims are expected to visit the Kingdom in the current Umrah season.
To complement the religious tourism sector's robust growth, Elaf has strengthened its presence in the three cities by launching a string of five new hotels as part of a SR1.25 billion investment by Saudi Economic and Development Company (SEDCO) - of which Elaf Group is a subsidiary - to develop various hospitality and tourism projects in the Kingdom.
Tarek Nabulsi, deputy CEO, Elaf Group of Companies said: “Global travel has become more affordable now with several special discounts, promotional activities and highly competitive airline prices, which have all contributed to the significant increase in the number of Umrah pilgrims and the strong growth of the Saudi tourist market. Accordingly, Elaf intends to cater to the new requirements of the burgeoning religious tourism sector by expanding our portfolio of hotel facilities in the key cities of Jeddah, Makkah and Madina.”
“More importantly, in line with our growth initiatives, we are also fully committed to maintain the highest level of quality and excellence in all our services. It is of paramount importance to us to help further enhance the spiritual and personal experience of the pilgrims during their stay in the Kingdom,” Nabulsi added.
Saudi Arabia is expected to generate a total of SR13 billion during the current Umrah season.
Elaf has earlier announced that it will launch two hotels each in Makkah and Jeddah and one in Madina with a combined capacity of 5,000 rooms within the next three years. Makkah and Jeddah have been recognized as among the top three biggest hotel markets in the Middle East, registering a growth in revenue per available room (revPAR) of 32.7 percent and 30.3 percent respectively during the first quarter of 2009, according to a recent quarterly report by Deloitte, the business advisory firm.
Elaf Group of Companies is a fully integrated organization providing a complete line of hotel, travel, tourism, cargo, Haj and Umrah services. The Group, which has been consistently named as one of the top 100 corporations in Saudi Arabia, intends to significantly increase the number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims within the next three years.

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