30 Million Pilgrims: Ministry of Hajj and Umrah sign MoU With Singapore Travel Company

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The Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) supporting the Kingdom’s vision of 2030 goal to increase its capacity to over 30 million pilgrims by utilizing Agoda’s technology and travel expertise, marketing platform capabilities, intelligence tools, and resources.

The agreement was signed on Monday with Singapore based Hotel Booking agency Agoga y H.E. Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, the Saudi minister of Hajj and Umrah and in the presence of Damien Pfirsch, VP Strategic Partnerships & Programs Agoda, during an official ceremony at the office of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. Umrah guests to the Kingdom can now visit a dedicated Agoda portal agoda.com/umrah to access select hotels that have been certified by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Umrah visitors and pilgrims bookings, as well as the wider reservation site. Pilgrims can easily find an array of accommodation options and securely book through the multilingual and multi-currency portal.

Under the MoU, the first to be signed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah with a global OTA, the parties will explore how together they will redefine the future of travel for pilgrims from across the world to the Kingdom, working in collaboration to help to build future services including guest flow and booking accommodation. The MoU will leverage the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s knowledge and understanding of the needs of pilgrims to the Holy cities and Agoda’s technology expertise, to enable the partners to explore ways to use technology to manage the anticipated increase in guests to the Kingdom and make accommodation reservations more accessible, easier, faster and secure.

According to Saudi Vision 2030 announced in 2016, the last decade has seen the number of Umrah visitors and pilgrims entering the country from abroad treble. The annual pilgrimages play a significant role in Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry, with the government aiming to grow this sector to 15 million Hajj and Umrah visitors annually by 2020, and 30 million by 2030.

John Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Agoda, said: “We are proud and honoured to have been selected by the Ministry to provide our best-in-class technology solutions as they strive to implement their 2030 vision. With Agoda’s expertise in accommodation and travel services, global distribution services, e-marketing and digital branding we want to be a key partner helping them to achieve their goals of accommodating 30 million Umrah and Hajj guests to the Kingdom.”

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.