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JEDDAH: An international conference and exhibition of Hajj and Umrah services was launched Monday at the Jeddah Superdome by Makkah Governor Prince Khalid Al-Faisal.

The three-day event, titled “Transformation to Innovation”, is organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in conjunction with the Doyof Al Rahman (Guests of Allah) program.

It aims to provide recommendations that serve the Hajj and Umrah sector in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Minister of Hajj and Umrah, announced the launch of a challenge to engage entrepreneurs in improving the experience of pilgrims.

“Doyof Al Rahman is one of the pillars of Vision 2030 as it aims to enrich the Hajj experience. We seek creativity and innovation through cooperation with all government and private sectors to achieve these goals,” he told the conference.

“We support creative initiatives by young entrepreneurs that would help us achieve our goals, so we launched the Hajj and Umrah Challenge, which aims to collect and implement creative ideas. In the past 48 hours, more than 1,500 people from across the Kingdom have applied on this platform.

The challenge will take place in two stages.

The first is a Hajj Creative Hackathon, which will last for three days and aims to bring workable creative solutions to Hajj services. Winners will receive prizes of approximately SR150,000 (approximately $40,000).

The second stage targets entrepreneurs and innovators across the Kingdom. They will participate through the open innovation platform to share suggestions and ideas for three months.

This stage will be punctuated by several courses and workshops aimed at bringing more startups and entrepreneurial projects into the Hajj and Umrah sector. These small businesses are to be incubated and supported by the Ministry and the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (Monsha’at).

Al-Rabiah said, “I hope to come out of this conference with distinguished creative ideas that will achieve the desired goals and more.”

The first day of the conference included three sessions of leading speakers, experts and scholars from the Hajj and Umrah sector, in addition to the attendance of 30 ministers from the Islamic world.

The three sessions were: Transformation towards innovation and technology, designing and improving the digital experience in the service of pilgrims, and innovation and pioneering actions in Hajj services.

Speakers for the first session were Ibrahim A. Al-Omar, Managing Director of Saudia Airlines, Colonel General Suliman Al-Yahya, Director General of Passports, Abdulrahman Addas, CEO of the Royal Commission for the City of Makkah and Places saints and CEO of the Pilgrim Experience and Al-Rabiah program.

While Vision 2030 wants to receive 30 million pilgrims, Al-Omar explained how Saudia is preparing to welcome such a large number.

“It is completely doable, and we will implement it by increasing the fleet, increasing direct destinations and activating Jeddah airport to become a hub for transit traffic.

“Today we have 144 aircraft and after three years we will add another 38 aircraft, and this will be reflected in the annual seat capacity of Saudia Airlines. The average number of seats will increase to 50 million, or 36% of approximate increase in capacity.

With direct flights key to facilitating visits to Umrah for international pilgrims, Saudia has announced 10 new direct routes to bring that total to 105.

Al-Yahya talked about the procedure for issuing Hajj permits and how it could be done in the pilgrim’s home country.

“Now, Hajj and Umrah visas are done by fingerprint, and this service is provided in five countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia. So far, it has served over 277,000 pilgrims since 2017.”

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on Hajj and Umrah, especially in terms of capacity and access, but the Kingdom has developed apps in response to the pandemic whose use extends beyond health care. health.

Al-Rabiah said the Eatmarna app helped organize access to the two holy mosques and significantly helped reduce overcrowding.

“The app has helped facilitate access to the Two Holy Mosques. This helped identify visitors, leaving more room for those who still didn’t have access. It also allowed us to collect and analyze data and set priorities.

During the conference, the ministry signed partnerships with the Saleh Abdullah Kamel Humanitarian Foundation, Flynas, Saudia, and the General Authority of Awqaf.

The agreements aim to monitor the needs of pilgrims during Hajj, by designing and developing products, programs and projects for pilgrims, developing the capacities of non-profit organizations working in Hajj services and activating the non-profit sector to monitor its efforts in the service of pilgrims.

The speakers of the second session were: Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Al-Bassami, General Commander of the Hajj Security Forces, Abdelmoneim Al-Mahmoud, Ambassador Plenipotentiary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah M. Al-Issa, CEO of Tawakkalna, and Hani A. Dahhan, Executive Vice President for Customer Experience in the Pilgrim Experience program.

Saudi Arabia has developed technology for Hajj and Umrah services, including a Hajj smart card launched last year, and Mashat said the ministry wanted to achieve two main goals.

“To receive more pilgrims and improve the Hajj experience,” he told the conference. “We want to provide pilgrims with an unforgettable spiritual experience without interruption. To do this, we aim to harness technology and make it the cornerstone of most of our services.”

An exhibition on the sidelines of the conference saw the presentation of programs, products and projects from those working in the sectors related to Hajj and Umrah.

The conference will also review the best innovative and effective ideas on topics compatible with the future of the Two Holy Mosques, such as smart cities and the construction of special development zones, via the Hajj Talk platform.

There were also two workshops on the first day of the conference: The Art of Dealing with Pilgrims and Design Thinking in Hajj and Umrah.

Residents and entrepreneurs are invited to attend the conference, with tickets available at ticketMX.com.

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