Forward-thinking travel businesses who keep their finger on the pulse of trending destinations ought to take note of Saudi Arabia, according to information gleaned from Elaf Group, a leading provider in the Middle East Travel and Tourism sector.

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The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam has recently experienced notable growth spikes in tourism with an increase in hotel occupancy recorded throughout the country. The growth has been attributed to the recent celebration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday as well as Umrah season, the period of time when pilgrims traditionally journey to Mecca to visit sites of religious significance.

This surge of interest is welcome news to the Saudi government whose initiatives of Vision 2030 are focused on driving the number of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims up to the lofty figure of 30 million annually. Tourism has been recognised as a key area in which it is possible to diversify Saudi's economy and the spend from religious pilgrims presently contributes to 2-3% of the country's GDP.

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The government's efforts to cement the country's position as the world's premiere religious tourism destination are clearly paying off - Travel News Daily reports that a 5% rise in Umrah pilgrims has recently been recorded and that a growth of 30% is expected to take place over the next three years.

In preparation for this predicted surge in tourists, construction has begun to build 35,770 new rooms in 81 hotels. A significant proportion of these rooms (24,133) are being built in Makkah. Furthermore, infrastructure projects are underway to boost capacity and accommodate approximately five million Hajj visitors and 15 million Umrah pilgrims.

If religious tourism has escaped your radar up until now, perhaps its time to investigate the opportunities this news unveils.

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