|17 August, 2019

Why the road to Makkah is an investment highway

From transportation to accommodation, there are investment opportunities to complete the value chain to the billion-plus Muslims around the globe

Muslim pilgrims arrive to pray outside Namira Mosque on the plains of Arafat during the annual haj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 10, 2019.

Muslim pilgrims arrive to pray outside Namira Mosque on the plains of Arafat during the annual haj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 10, 2019.

REUTERS/ Umit Bektas

Performing Hajj with my family, I realized what a spiritual and cleansing experience it was to be among more than 2.5 million pilgrims wearing simple clothing, saying similar dua’a and performing identical rituals. Since we have already reached this figure during 2019, I expect we may reach the targeted 6 million pilgrims before 2030.

This important pillar is a sector where investment opportunities are limitless.

From transportation to accommodation, there are major investment opportunities to complete the value chain to the billion-plus Muslims around the globe.

This time, I saw and experienced the Kingdom’s major expansion and enhancement to the Grand Mosque and the holy sites.

The train system has been reinforced to improve access, and help pilgrims perform their visits with greater ease and convenience.

This is one of the promising areas for investment for international companies.

I am sure further enhancement and improvements will be needed as the number of pilgrims grows.

The hospitality sector is another sector for investment, especially for the local private sector. Although my own experience was satisfactory, a lot of improvements are required to enhance the accommodation facilities in the holy sites, and the private sector can be part of this.

It is clear that continual development of the Hajj and Umrah organizations and services in the Kingdom is among the top priorities of the Saudi government.

The Kingdom’s economic blueprint for 2030 includes plans to further improve the quality of services offered to visitors embarking on Hajj and Umrah.

This challenging target will require the public and private sectors to facilitate and implement investments in sectors including construction, transportation, information technology, accommodation and catering worth more than $50 billion.

Finally, there is a great opportunity for local and international investors seeking to be involved in the government’s plans to turn Makkah into a smart city. This will require major investments by IT companies.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Saudi leadership’s management of the Hajj season.

To mobilize such a large number of people who speak different languages requires a high degree of coordination and supervision around the clock, not to mention billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure. And to manage the targeted 6 million pilgrims in 10 years, or even less, local and international companies will find limitless investment opportunities in order to maintain this legacy of smooth management of the Hajj season, ensuring the safety, comfort and happiness of pilgrims.

Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.

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