Saudi Arabia has said that pilgrims with full dosage of the Sinovac vaccine are required to take boosters from either Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna before leaving to perform the Hajj or Umrah.
According to Saudi Tourism Authority country manager, Southeast Asia Shazlin Ahmad, Saudi Arabia has only approved the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines while there is no quarantine to enter the country.
“However, we must take the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test three days before departure,” she said at the Islamic Tourism Conference (WITC) 2021 yesterday.
There are two types of visas to enter Saudi Arabia, namely the e-visa with which pilgrims can travel anywhere in the country, and the Umrah visa which is only for the purpose of umrah.
Upon arrival, pilgrims are required to download two mobile applications on their smartphones which are Tawakkalna and Eatmarna, which are similar to MySejahtera. The former is for check-ins whenever one enters a premise while Eatmarna is to book Umrah and Rawdah slots.
Shazlin said it is Prince Mohammed Salman’s Vision 2030 to make Saudi Arabia not just a pilgrimage destination but also for culture, tourism and leisure.
The two-day WITC is aimed to explore the challenges and opportunity related to the development, management and promotion of Muslim-friendly tourism amid pandemic recovery.
Themed “Islamic Tourism – New Norms and Revitalisation”, WITC 2021 featured speakers from governments and city councils, the diplomatic community, business owners, tourism industry, and academia.
Tourism, Arts and Culture minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said in 2019, the number of Muslim travelers reached 200.3 million, with total tourism-related expenditure amounting to USD194 billion.
“While the pandemic had shelved travel plans for many, it is expected that Muslim tourists will continue to fulfil their travel needs once borders are fully open,” she said in her keynote speech.
The Muslim tourist expenditure is forecasted to reach USD208 billion in 2024 despite the recent travel disruptions.
“Islamic tourism, and the concept of Muslim-Friendly Tourism and Hospitality is a powerful branding and marketing tool to attract the Muslim market in the new tourism environment, where health and safety are top priorities,” Nancy added.
To tap into the market, the minister proposed three strategies touching on innovation, knowledge and collaboration where industry players must be innovative in product and service development suitable for Muslim tourists.
She added that it is important to understand the market when it comes to Muslim travellers’ general and unique needs, behaviours and preferences.
Hence, training, upskilling and research is important to provide industry players with a familiarity with the market, which in turn encourages product development and diversification.
“Forging partnerships will merge key strengths to move forward stronger. For tourism industry players, such cooperation can enhance marketing and branding while establishing a stronger ecosystem, to serve the Muslim tourist market effectively.
“The vastness of Islamic tourism and its interconnectedness to other areas of the socioeconomy unlocks so many opportunities for everyone,” Nancy added.
She believed that Islamic tourism is an untapped market which holds great promise and potential in advancing the Islamic Economy as a whole.
Making important preparations to Muslim tourists would pave the way for a new revenue stream from a potentially lucrative market.
“The potential for income revenue exists by making efforts to close the existing gap between demand and supply for Muslim-friendly tourism products and services across the Islamic economy,” she said.
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