Baku. 24 March. REPORT.AZ/ Saudi Arabia needs to restructure the Haj pilgrimage service sector to reduce the country's dependence on falling oil revenues, a member of the Saudi National Tourism Committee said Thursday, Report infоrms citing Sputniknews.
"The total capacity of hostels and furnished apartments in the Saudi southwestern region of Makkah and the western region of Madinah is not being fully utilized due to a lack of good planning," Abdul Ghani Ansari told the Saudi Okaz and Saudi Gazette newspapers.
According to Ansari, some 12 million pilgrims could be accommodated in Makkah, while Madinah is capable of accepting only about 230,000 visitors.
"This shows there is a big gap when we compare the two holy cities," the official said, referring to Mecca and Medina.
Ansari called for a center to be created to tap into the revenue generated by pilgrims, stressing that the Saudi Haj Ministry would be able to meet its annual budget commitments without any government contributions.
According to official estimates, the country receives some two million pilgrims annually, making it the second most important economic sector after energy, this figure is expected to grow to 2.7 million by 2020.