As Muslim worshippers complete a second Hajj pilgrimage pared down by coronavirus restrictions, Saudi Arabia is pressing ahead with plans to restart the kingdom’s nascent secular tourism sector as part of its ongoing efforts to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels.
Religious tourism has traditionally been one of the few ways visitors could enter the kingdom – home to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities.
That custodianship makes Saudi Arabia a destination for outsiders. Between the Hajj, which happens at specified times each year and is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Umrah, a pilgrimage to the holy sites that can occur at any time, the kingdom hosted 9.5 million pilgrims in 2019.
But Riyadh has plans to tap a tourist market