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JEDDAH / MAKKAH: The occupancy rate at the start of the holy month of Ramadan varied between 10-20%, while in the second half it rose to 30-38%, Rayan bin Osama Filali, chairman of the Committee of hotel, an affiliate of the Mecca Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Arab News.
Filali explained that for the first time, a relatively moderate increase in prices during the last days of Ramadan was observed – an unprecedented event, as prices often increase by 300% in the last 10 days of Ramadan, compared to on the rest days of Ramadan. month.
“The scale and impact of the pandemic have caused the cancellation of offers promoted by hotels during the last 10 days of Ramadan,” Filali noted. The fact that only a small percentage of hotels were able to function “showed the extent of damage to the sector from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which disrupted the entire system, resulting in losses that could throw a shadow over the years to come. “
The Chairman of the Hospitality Committee said the pandemic had directly disrupted much of the dynamism of the hotel sector, as it is one of the most productive, stimulating and job-creating sectors of the market. .
He also said that only 26 hotels in the central Mecca region are operating this Ramadan season with average prices down 55%.
Mecca is Saudi Arabia’s main hotel artery, accounting for over 64% of the industry alone, which Filali says needs at least four years to recover from the current crisis.
He also noted that the economic implications for the 1,200 hotels were extreme and that most hotels have completely suspended operations, shutting down facilities and sending thousands of workers home.
“These workers are still waiting for hotels to open their doors after the end of the pandemic or the end of the vaccination campaign for the whole community,” he added.
According to Filali, the hotel sector generates huge financial returns for every country in the world, and the holy capital depends mainly on the permanence of an industry that creates thousands of jobs every year.
Filali pointed out that the industry was expecting a major expansionary boom but that the virus was threatening the industry despite efforts by Saudi officials to maintain employee wages for several months with the “Saned” unemployment insurance program.
“The lack of demand on reservations and the high volume of operations and the cost of food have crippled the tourism sector, which has led many hotels to suspend their activities until the end of the pandemic,” he said. declared Filali.
Hotels surrounding the courtyards of the Grand Mosque of Mecca were allowed on Tuesday to issue Umrah permits to guests during Ramadan as part of an initiative to revive the holy city’s struggling hospitality sector . Click here to find out more.
Bassam Khanfar, general manager of the Shaza Makkah hotel, told Arab News that more than 17,000 rooms have remained vacant due to the pandemic.
He said that a gradual recovery in operations and purchasing power must be taken into account so that the sector can recover with the least possible losses.
He pointed out that the average price for a room in the first 20 days of Ramadan was 1,300 SR, increasing to an average of 1,900 SR in the last 10 days of the holy month.
The Khanfar hotel offered a 50% discount to healthcare practitioners in recognition of their tremendous efforts in tackling the virus – efforts that echoed the performance of the Kingdom as a whole in tackling the pandemic.
Saudis and expats used to spend the last 10 days of the holy month in Mecca for worship, but many of them have put the habit on hold since the start of the pandemic.
Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, owner of a cafe in Jeddah, told Arab News: “Before the pandemic, I was keen to practice Umrah during the last 10 days of every Ramadan, especially on the 27th night when Laylat Al- Qadr (Night of Power) would have taken place. “
He added that the Grand Mosque would normally see hundreds of thousands of worshipers in the last 10 days of Ramadan, in the pre-COVID-19 era.
“Unfortunately, I cannot practice Umrah this time because I have not yet received the first dose of the vaccine despite my attempts to get the vaccine. But that is to be expected, as millions of people are trying to sign up for the vaccine, ”he said.
Al-Ghamdi’s friend, retired army officer Salem bin Saleh, said he was lucky to receive the first doses and plans to practice Umrah in the next few days.
“Performing Umrah in the last 10 days of Ramadan has been a habit of mine for over 30 years,” Saleh told Arab News.
He said that performing Umrah during Ramadan is equal in reward to performing Hajj, as Prophet Muhammad said.
“The feeling you get during and after performing Umrah during Ramadan is indescribable,” Saleh added.