Saudi Arabia is not a country that attracts huge numbers of tourists, unless they are heading to Makkah on the Hajj pilgrimage. Well the country is planning to change that by investing millions of dollars into their tourism industry. They hope to pull themselves away from their reliance on the oil industry and make tourism their big money earner.
With strict laws against alcohol and big restrictions against women, it remains to be seen whether they’ll be successful or not. There is also the issue of their human rights violations.
The Saudi Kingdom is already the home of Mecca and Medina, two of the most important sites in the Islamic faith, and it has developed a sizable and growing industry for religious visitors. According to figures from the World Bank, the total number of tourists arrivals to Saudi Arabia reached over 18 million in 2014, though the large majority of those visitors are said to be religious visitors or pilgrims. The obvious problem of only inviting lots of pilgrims is that they tend not to be big spenders!
Pilgrims walking around the Ka’ba above, and on Mount Mercy on the Plain of Arafat below:
Finally the enormity of Hajj is shown by Tent City: