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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Saudi Arabia inks tourism deal with e-travel booker Agoda

The preliminary agreement aims to promote the kingdom to pilgrims with dedicated portal

Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims performing the Hajj attend the Friday prayers inside and outside the Grand Mosque, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Salah Malkawi/ The National
Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims performing the Hajj attend the Friday prayers inside and outside the Grand Mosque, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Salah Malkawi/ The National

Saudi Arabia's ministry in charge of the Islamic events of Haj and Umrah signed a preliminary agreement with online travel agent Agoda to promote the kingdom to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and other visitors, as part of national efforts to boost tourism.

Under the agreement with the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, Agoda will market Saudi Arabia to prospective visitors through a dedicated portal on Agoda’s website.

In addition, the two parties agreed to closely evaluate data on guest flows and booking accommodation to explore how they can improve services to the millions of religious tourists that visit the kingdom each year, and increase their numbers, they said in a statement on Tuesday.

Agoda is one of the world’s best known travel booking websites. It has entered into similar marketing partnerships in other countries, including with Indian e-travel company Yatra.com this week.

The kingdom is working to expand its tourism industry as part of its Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy. It is already in the process of reviewing visa regulations and opening up new areas of the kingdom, including the Red Sea coastline, to international and domestic visitors.

In particular, it aims to grow numbers of Hajj and Umrah tourists – currently the biggest contributor to Saudi visitor numbers – to 30 million by 2030, from 19 million.

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Under Tuesday’s preliminary agreement, the kingdom aims to use Agoda’s technology, marketing platforms and data analysis tools to tap in to the growing pool of existing and potential pilgrims, learn more about their needs and tailor services accordingly, the joint statement said.

“With Agoda’s expertise in accommodation and travel services, global distribution services, e-marketing and digital branding, we [aim to be] a key partner helping the kingdom achieve its goals of accommodating 30 million Umrah and Hajj guests,” said Agoda chief executive John Brown.

The new portal on Agoda’s website allows religious tourists to browse select hotels approved by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and securely book via the website.