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Global crisis hits flow of pilgrims from US, Europe

Galal Fakkar | Arab News  

10 Dhul Hijja, 1429, December 8, 2008


The global financial crisis has taken its toll on this year's Haj. The US subprime mess that triggered a credit crunch of immense proportion worldwide, has led to the decrease in the number of European and North American pilgrims, according to hotel managers in Makkah.

Shaja Zaidi, general manager of Makkah Hilton, said that there has been a 25 to 30 percent decline in the number of pilgrims from these countries compared to last year in addition to a high number of cancellations.

“I didn't think it would be that steep,” he said, adding that overall spending by pilgrims will likely be much lower than last year due to the economic tumult that has not only affected Western markets but also regional ones.

“We've booked South African and Arab groups to make up for the shortfall in European and American pilgrims,” said Ali Khater, sales manager of White Palace Hotel in Makkah.

Bandar Al-Harbi, manager of InterContinental Hotels in the Kingdom, said that the decline in the number of pilgrims from the US and Europe is a one-off situation dictated by the global financial meltdown and the number is sure to increase again when the economy recovers. He added that the organizations that focus on Western pilgrims have been hurt the most. He, however, said that those dealing with pilgrims from Lebanon, Egypt, Malaysia and other Gulf countries are less affected.

Sources from the Establishment for Pilgrims from Turkey, Europe, America and Australia said that the total number of European pilgrims, which is estimated at 40,000, represents a 30-percent decline compared to last year. The sharpest fall has been in the number of pilgrims from the US, he added.

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