MAKKAH — The business activities and transactions of local money exchanges received a shot in the arm with the huge inflow of foreign pilgrims during this year’s Hajj after a hiatus of three years of coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Transactions of money exchanges posted a huge increase of 80 percent with dollar witnessing the highest demand during the Hajj season.

According to owners of several money exchanges, the American dollar is still the most traded currency in exchange transactions among the pilgrims who came from all over the world. Salahuddin Saleh Kaki, owner of a money exchange, told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that the Hajj season contributes significantly to the strength of currency exchange businesses in the Kingdom. The annual volume of the currency exchange market during the current Hajj season is SR25 billion and it brings huge profits to the money exchangers. The annual revenues are estimated at about SR450 million as exchange companies and establishments deal with about 50 international currencies.

Kaki said that the volume of trading in the exchange market during this year’s Hajj season was much better than the previous three years. “The transactions of money exchanges witnessed an increase of 80 percent due to the large number of pilgrims following lifting of all pandemic related precautionary measures and preventive protocols,” he said.

The money exchange sector was one of the worst affected sectors following the suspension of the arrival of pilgrims due to a travel ban imposed by the Saudi government for foreign pilgrims. Although the Hajj season of 2022 witnessed a good return, the money exchange sector has fully returned to normalcy only this year. The number of foreign pilgrims who arrived to perform Hajj last year was little more than half of the pilgrims who performed Hajj this year.

Kaki said that dollar is still the most traded currency. The sterling pound comes second while the Indian and Pakistani rupees come third, and they were followed by the currencies of the Gulf Cooperation Council states.

He said there are two major reasons for dollar’s top position in popularity among other currencies in the money exchange market. The first is that the exchange rate of dollar is a fixed one against the Saudi riyal, and secondly some countries that witnesses internal conflicts and other issues prefer to use dollar instead of their official currencies. There are some currencies that were not traded and bought between money exchangers during the Hajj season this year, due to their low exchange rate.

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