Madinah: About two million Haj pilgrims this year are expected to pump 2 billion Saudi riyals (Dh1.95 billion) into the Madinah economy.
A recent report showed that more than 900,000 visitors have arrived in Madinah and spent about 500 million riyals in the city's markets and malls. The report indicated that malls in the central area will get the lion's share of the pilgrims' spending.
Mohammad Al Lahaibi, a businessman in Madinah, said there are encouraging signs that this year will see better business than last year.
He said the most thriving markets in Madinah are those that sell clothes, souvenirs and electrical appliances.
Another flourishing business is the date trade. This explains why date traders organise date festivals at this time of the year.
Merchants in the central shopping centres have started offering commissions to bus drivers who direct their passengers to these centres. Some of them offer the drivers 10 riyals per head. The practice has become common in Madinah.
It has created fierce competition among bus drivers starting from the early morning hours to midnight.
This means that hundreds of visitors throng these markets because the drivers transport their passengers for free.
Electrical appliance merchants have been worried about the possibility that the market could be flooded with fake goods.
They fear that this will damage the reputations of the merchants and drive customers away. Ramadan, a merchant in the business for decades, complained that the authorities are not doing enough to monitor and control the market and keep a check on those who have unlicensed stalls in the area.
He said it is human nature for visitors to be attracted by cheap prices and then be preyed upon by unscrupulous merchants.
The inspectors are expected to increase their patrols in the central area to prevent unlicensed stalls from blocking the passages leading to the main mosque.
Dr Yousuf Bin Ahmad, Chairman of the National Guides Establishment in Madinah, said he expects more than a million pilgrims to visit the Prophet's Mosque after the Haj. This is in addition to the 900,000 visitors who have already visited it.