With the number of pilgrims visiting Mecca expected to surge over the next decade, international hotel operators are increasingly looking at opportunities in the holy city.
The Haj attracts the biggest concentration of travellers, with up to 2.7 million pilgrims expected to undertake the journey this year. Branded hotels that are already open run at 100 per cent occupancy and greatly inflate their rates for the season.
There could be scope to increase the number of hotel rooms in Mecca to 82,000 from about 50,000 rooms, said the consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle.
One of the largest developments is Jabal Omar, which should eventually have about 10,000 hotel rooms under the management of major international hotel companies.
About 7.8 million Muslims visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina each year on Haj and Umrah, for which pilgrimages are undertaken throughout the year.
"Our analysis of potential capacity constraints suggests that the total number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina could almost double to 13.75 million by 2019," according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle.
The Saudi Arabian government has allocated a significant portion of its budget to be spent on increasing the number of hotel rooms in the holy cities to accommodate more religious tourists. As well as improving the overall infrastructure, a US$1.8 billion (Dh6.61bn) metro train service is now operational, connecting the main destinations that pilgrims visit on Haj.
But analysts also say that growth is being held back by problems visitors have had in obtaining visas.