Mawasim, Saudi Arabia’s leading B2B Hajj and Umrah travel provider, has today unveiled the latest trends in Umrah travel at the Conference & Exhibition for Hajj and Umrah Services: Transformation Towards Innovation in Jeddah. The event, which is organised by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, conducted under the Patronage and Presence of His Royal Highness Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah Region, and in co-operation with the Doyof Al Rahman Vision Realisation Programme (a Saudi Vision 2030 executive programme), serves as a platform for decision makers, academics, scholars and stakeholders from governmental, private, and non-profit sectors to connect and showcase the increasing interest in Umrah travel post-pandemic.
Following two years’ of COVID-19 restrictions, Saudi Arabia recently lifted most precautionary measures for the Two Holy Mosques allowing for foreign pilgrims to perform Umrah. Mawasim has since seen strong interest in its transport, accommodation and visa booking services with trends indicating a strong recovery for Umrah travel in 2022. This is supported by a series of government decisions, the most prominent of which is the development and facilitation of the visa system, as this comes with the backing of the Doyof Al Rahman Vision Realisation Programme, which services visitors from three sectors: government, private as well as non-profit.
Booking demand from new feeder source markets from Central Asia including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, as well as Iraq are an indication of growing opportunities for Umrah travel. Interest from these markets is contributing to around 60% of gross booking value (GBV) for Mawasim in the year to date, boosted by Mawasim’s integration with Maqam, the official global distribution platform of the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
Group bookings currently account for a high proportion of incoming business resulting in a higher demand for buses as the preferred mode of transport. The length of stays is returning to pre-COVID levels; during previous months booking longer stays was necessary to fulfil quarantine requirements. Bookings to Makkah and Madinah vary according to different source markets, with length of stays in Makkah ranging from four to nine nights and stays in Madinah ranging from three to six nights.
Currently, spending patterns indicate that customers are prioritising value for money due to economic challenges brought on by the impact of COVID and increased costs. However, this is expected to change as travel restrictions continue to ease with spending returning to pre-COVID levels.
There has also been an increase in interest for Mawasim’s ‘Umrah+’ packages which provides pilgrims with an enhanced all-in-one trip, combining Umrah with the opportunity to discover Saudi Arabia’s attractions – Riyadh, AlUla and Taif are amongst the most popular destinations. This has been driven by the introduction of tourist visas which travellers are utilising for both Umrah travel as well as to explore the country, with a growth of 20% since January 2022 from tourist visa markets for Umrah travel. Booking multiple trips has also become increasingly popular, as multiple-entry tourist visas with longer validity are encouraging travellers to return to the Kingdom.
Majed Alnefaie, CEO at Seera Group, said: "We are pleased to participate in the Conference & Exhibition for Hajj and Umrah Services which plays an important role in bringing together key stakeholders to shape the recovery of the Hajj and Umrah travel industry. It has sent a clear signal that the industry is open once again and pilgrims from around the world can visit the Two Holy Mosques. Our Mawasim booking data indicates a positive recovery for Umrah travel in 2022 with strong interest from new markets. With decades of experience and local expertise, we will continue to support pilgrims on their journey by ensuring their trip is a seamless and unforgettable one."
In response to the growing demand in 2022, Mawasim is continuing to develop and improve its B2B portal to provide better solutions for travel agents which, combined with the Maqam portal, has engaged around 200 agents since 2020. Mawasim is also expanding its accommodation offerings, which includes Sheraton Makkah owned by Seera Group, to suit the needs of every traveller, ranging from economy, to comfort and premium hotels.