The Elaf Group, a subsidiary of Saudi Economic and Development Company (SEDCO) which serves the Saudi Arabian travel, tourism and hotel industries, has announced an expansion in its hotel offering with five hotels projects in three holy cities.
The move has been driven by a significant surge in religious tourism, which according to recent reports has achieved a 30 percent growth in the first quarter of 2009.
Elaf has particularly prepared for the new Umrah season that started in February, noting a considerable growth trend as around 3.5 million pilgrims are expected to visit the kingdom in the current Umrah season.
Religious tourism in Saudi generates around $7 billion annually according to recent reports, while the government has allocated a total of $38 billion in tourism infrastructure and transport systems, including a high-speed railway system that will link Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah – three key travel destinations in the country.
Elaf has strengthened its presence in the three cities by launching a string of five new hotels as part of a SR1.25 billion ($333m) investment to develop various hospitality and tourism projects in the kingdom.
Tarek Nabulsi, deputy CEO, Elaf Group, said: “Global travel has become more affordable now with several special discounts, promotional activities and highly competitive airline prices, which have all contributed to the significant increase in the number of Umrah pilgrims and the strong growth of the Saudi tourist market.
Saudi Arabia is expected to generate a total of SR13 billion during the current Umrah season while Makkah and Jeddah have been recognised as among the top three biggest hotel markets in the Middle East, registering a growth in revenue per available room (revPAR) of 32.7 percent and 30.3 percent respectively during the first quarter of 2009, according to a recent quarterly report by Deloitte, the business advisory firm.