Saudi Arabia has been experiencing a very busy period given that it issued over 3 million visas for Umrah pilgrims coming from all corners of the globe, as reported by Saudi Gazette. According to the weekly indicator shared by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, the number of Umrah visas issued until 11 Jumada Al-Awwal (January 17, 2019) was 3,024,272 while the number of pilgrims who entered the Kingdom to date is 2,561,541. There are still 399,479 pilgrims currently in the Kingdom, with 277,372 of them in Mecca and 122,107 in Medina.
According to the ministry, the highest number of pilgrims by nationality was from Pakistan at 681,392 Pakistanis, followed by 447,450 Indonesians, 306,470 Indians, 146,067 Yemenis, 142,290 Malaysians, 92,752 Algerians, 86,925 Turkish, 85,438 Egyptians, 63,131 Bangladeshis, and 62,927 Emiratis. To cater to the millions of visitors coming into the country, Saudi Arabia has an impressive number of on-ground staff in various sectors working together to ensure that pilgrims are taken care of and that security is always provided. According to the news site, as many as 9,983 Saudi Arabians – including 1,724 women and 8,259 men – are working in the service institutions.
Hajj Terminal at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport
Saudi Arabia has been a developing a number of additional facilities to its major cities in preparation for an onslaught of visitors in the coming years, and has also been working over the last two years to greatly improve its services to pilgrims visiting the Kingdom, utilizing technology to facilitate many processes, as well as recruiting more women to work in various sectors as a way to improve the experiences of female visitors. This is because the Kingdom is planning to receive a record number of pilgrims by the year 2030, currently projected as 30 million.
In December 2018, for instance, Mecca’s Prince Khalid Al-Faisal laid the foundation stone for a new airport in Al-Qunfudah, located in Saudi Arabia’s Tihamah region. Once completed, the facility will be the fourth airport to be built in
the province and the 28th for the Kingdom. In February 2018, Saudi Arabia announced that pilgrims will be able to receive better assistance with the help of the Kingdom’s latest innovation: an app that will provide pilgrims with basic information and automatic replies through social media sites to general queries. In 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information launched two digital platforms to provide information and insights to visiting pilgrims: SaudiWelcomesTheWorld.org, a portal where people can share their Hajj journey through images and words; and Hajj2017.org, which provided information, updates, and news.