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A STUDY ON THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF RELIGIOUS TOURISM -HAJJ- ON THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY

ABSTRACT

The Hajj event takes place in the city of Mecca, which is highly considered holy among the Muslim world. Mecca and Medina have numerous archaeological sites and historical sites that if well maintained can have tremendous impact to Saudi Arabia especially the tourism industry. Though there are concerns that are emerging, for instance, the destruction of some major buildings and sites that are of importance to the Muslims. Hammoudi (2006: 28) claimed that this not only affects the Muslim community but also tourism industry in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, sustainable management of Hajj event is a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed.

The government and other stakeholders have enhanced security standards, to make sure that the pilgrims are safe during the Hajj event. The government of Saudi Arabia has achieved this by deployment of plenty of security personnel who are being placed at different venues during the event. The population during the Hajj event is very big and sometimes hard for the security officers to take into account everything that goes on, to solve this, the planners have increased the number of surveillance cameras, which are placed everywhere. The cameras help the authorities in curbing major and minor crimes.

A case study approach was used to investigate and determine responses to various variables under study. The case study entailed the inquiry into sustainable management of Hajj event as a tourism destination, to benefit the local community in Mecca and Medina and promote non-oil economic development of Saudi Arabia. Among the 40 participants, 57.5% had attended Hajj event within the last 6 years. Majority of business people preferred carrying out business during Hajj season with most business that facilitates Hajj performance and pilgrimage, achieving high performance each year. In addition, 80% of participants supported infrastructure development to promote Hajj event as a tourism destination. 

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the most popular and celebrated event in the world. Muslims from all over the world do take part in this holy event. To the Muslim community this event is regarded as a religious obligation since it is among the five pillars of Islam. The Hajj is actually the fifth pillar. This is an event that is celebrated annually and also considered as a way of showing solidarity and respect to God (Allah) (Welman, Kruger, & Mitchell 2005: 10). The annual-Hajj event has since early 2000 been considered a tourist destination especially in Mecca and Medina.

According to the Islamic faith, any Muslim who is physically fit and has the funds to attend the Hajj pilgrimage is advised to at least participate once in their lifetime. The lives of Muslims at that particular special state are known as Ihram. The pilgrimage usually takes place in the final month of the Islamic calendar; it takes place as from 8th to 12th Dhu-al Hijjah. This means that according to the Gregorian calendar the event takes different turns from year to year (Fortenberry & Manley, 2009: 15).

This event is dated back many years ago since the time of Ibrahim. The Hajj is basically about the life of the prophet Muhammad back in the 7th century. A number of activities take place during this event, and these activities are regarded as rituals. Hence these rituals are performed in a sequence by the pilgrims, who gather in the city of Mecca in the province of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to fulfil a religious duty (Berkey, 2003: 24).

It all begins around the Ka’aba, where every person is supposed to walk seven times counter-clockwise around Ka’aba. Ka’aba is a cube-shaped structure that acts as a guide to the Muslim prayer. Then from there one is expected to run back and forth between Al-Safa hill and Al-Marwah hill. They then proceed to the next ritual which is to drink from the well of Zamzam. The next ritual to be performed is stone throwing. This is considered a move of stoning the devil and it is done in mount Arafat, where one stands in vigil, to condemn the devil by stoning it (Wong & Williams, 2004: 18).

The next ritual to be performed is cutting down of the hair. Then eventually proceed to the next ritual which is the animal sacrifice to Allah, it is also the final ritual to be performed. Eid-al Adha is a festival that is celebrated in three days, in the entire universe. During the pre-Islamic period different tribes from all over the Arabian Peninsula would meet in Mecca city for the pilgrimage. The tribe did not matter at the time as Pagans too participated in the event (Daher, 2007: 32).

 

IMPORTANCE OF THE HAJJ PILGRIMAGE

According to the Muslim community the Hajj is an event of great and immense value that one mutually benefits after participating in the pilgrimage. The event since it is attended in large masses teaches us that no one is different from the other and that we are all equal. The Hajj also is a way of one showing his/her strong belief in the teachings and the ways of Allah. This is virtually a symbol of commitment to Allah (Hammoudi, 2006: 14).

Mecca is a city considered being the sacred or rather the most holy city in the Muslim world. Hence Mecca has numerous historical and archeological sites that many Muslims get acquainted with, both spiritually and historically. This in turn strengthens their faith, in the prophet Muhammad. It too acts as a reminder where every person will meet on the judgment day, to await Allah’s verdict on every person’s destiny. This event also teaches us the value of mercy and forgiveness since we all belong to God (Robinson, Wale, & Dickson, 2010: 16).

During the Hajj pilgrimage, Muslims dress uniformly and follow the same instructions that are given. Prayers are also said uniformly, at the same time, indicating that before God no one is special than the other and that before Allah everyone is equal. It also symbolizes the virtue of humility and devotion to Allah. This is a way of showing great faith to Allah who is supreme to all mankind (Pimple, 2008: 20).

 

CHALLENGES FACING THE HAJJ PILGRIMAGE

During Hajj, there are certain rituals that are performed and one of the rituals is drinking from the Zamzam well. Producing an enormous amount of water to millions of people actually is challenging. Saudi Arabia is well known for producing oil it thus shows that the region is a dry region. This is to say that if proper ways are integrated at the event that will help to produce water for the masses it will be a tremendous help to the Saudi government (McMillan, 2011: 25).

The other issues are how the large number of animals sacrificed is disposed after the ritual of animal sacrifice is done. This is a task only left to the Saudi government which clearly shows that the government uses quite a huge sum of money to clean up Mecca city. Providing security to the people is also another huge task to the Saudi government. Therefore, if appropriate sustainable methods can be achieved, it will help curb the negative aftermath of the Hajj pilgrimage (Chittick, 2007: 30).

In order to guarantee sustainability of Hajj as a pilgrimage and religious event, there have been efforts over the years to ensure no political process interferes with the management of Hajj. For instance, the Hajj event is determined by religious leaders and the government of Saudi Arabia goes according to the determination of the Muslim leaders. The Hajj is a religious event among Muslims and if political events were allowed to affect Hajj performance, the Hajj would lose the original meaning of a sacred pilgrimage event. This in turn, would make the Saudi government and business and the community fail to gain from the economic value that comes with the Hajj event. In addition, the social norms and beliefs of the Muslims community would be degraded.  (Crofton, 2002: 22).

The above discussed issues are majorly important to the Saudi government. Such issues are of great concern especially so because a huge amount of money is used almost every year. This huge amount of money that is used can help in giving back to the Saudi government and it natives, as well. If this can be achieved, then most definitely there will be a major improvement in the Hajj event as well as on the tourism sector of Saudi Arabia (Bhushana, 2007: 19).

 

IMPACT OF THE HAJJ PILGRIMAGE

In order for a huge event such as the Hajj pilgrimage to be well celebrated and a well known global event, there must have been numerous impacts that take place or happens. Therefore, there are various impacts that emerge before and after the event. This impact could be either positive or negative touching on both social and economic factors to the people of Saudi Arabia. Not only the people of Saudi Arabia but also to both Muslims and non- Muslims (Vasil’ev, 2000: 42).

The Hajj basically impacts on the faith of the Muslim community in that it motivates the feeling of unity among all Muslims. Hence, incorporate the world of Muslim without looking at the race, nationality or ones gender. This in turn, brings about unity and equality to both Muslims and non Muslims. Again those who have attended the Hajj or rather have taken part in the Hajj pilgrimage have an added advantage. This is to say that they are permitted to perform other Islamic practices such as fasting and saying the prayers (Taylor, 2009: 35).

The event however brings about the other side of the coin. For instance, the event minimizes international practices while it enhances the local beliefs. To some people they have different perception towards the Hajj saying that it brings about a particular kind of Islam. There are fears expressed as well that because the Hajj promotes a sense of togetherness among the Muslims the non-Muslims sometimes tend to suffer. For example, the bombers that attacked London public transport were said to have participated in the Hajj (Allen, 2009: 37).

 

PROBLEM STATEMENT

According to Paneerselvam (2004: 24), being a major global event that is attended by practically every race in the world, The Hajj pilgrimage has some issues that need to be looked upon. The event takes place every year therefore this means that every year the Saudi government has a chance of managing the event to enhance the living standards of the locals and for the nation as a whole. Most natives have a chance to make the event of great socioeconomic importance.

Every year, the Saudi government is put to task. This is to say that the government has to ensure that the welfare of mass population of over two million is guaranteed. The government of Saudi Arabia has to ensure that the infrastructure of Saudi is well established to help facilitate the event. The government spends a lot of money just to ensure the success of the event that takes place annually. Therefore, a lot of money will go to waste for almost a week if there is no proper sustainable management of the event (Crane & Weber, 2012: 34). This study seeks to determine viable opportunities for ensuring sustainable management of Hajj event and how the event can be utilized for tourist attraction, leading to non-oil development in Saudi Arabia.

 

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

1.To outline the potential future of the sustainable management of the Hajj

2.To understand the barriers and success factors and what the event organizers face in moving the event towards sustainability

3.To understand the existing strategies of sustainable event management, pertinent to the Saudi government’s management of Hajj

4.To determine how tourism expenditures have had an impact on non-oil economic growth in Saudi Arabia.


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