Umrah mecca saudi
Worshippers perform the Umrah pilgrimage walk between the Marwa and Safa hills at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca on March 23, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: A record number of over 6 million pilgrims have performed Umrah in the current season in Saudi Arabia, according to Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb.

The first quarter of 2023 also saw a 581 per cent increase in incoming tourists for entertainment and holidays compared to the same period in 2019.

He attributed these to the simplified electronic visa procedures and significant improvements in facilities and services in the Kingdom’s tourist destinations.

Al Khateeb made these remarks at a virtual meeting with investors in the Saudi tourism sector, alongside Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin and other stakeholders.

He emphasised that the ministry will prioritize quality, compliance with necessary licenses, and Saudization of jobs in the tourism sector.

The strong start to the year has led to the allocation of more than SR600 million for promoting tourist destinations across the Kingdom during the summer season campaign.

Preliminary statistics indicate that the growth rate of total domestic tourism spending in Q1 2023 reached 45 per cent compared to Q1 2022. Inbound tourism saw the highest quarterly number of foreign tourists, estimated at 7.8 million, with a growth rate of 64 per cent compared to Q1 2019.

The minister highlighted growth in tourist visitors from the Gulf, the Middle East, East Asia, and European countries, particularly Turkey, France, Russia, Italy, and Germany.

Mecca topped the list of destinations with 4.4 million tourists, followed by Riyadh, Dammam, and Al Khobar. Jeddah and Al Ahsa also experienced significant growth in the number of tourist visitors during the first quarter of 2023.