Hotels and furnished apartments near the Grand Mosque in Makkah are already fully booked for the last 10 days of Ramadan commencing Thursday, with a typical room offering a view of the Kabaa – the House of God – ranging anywhere between SR 10,000-15,000 ($2,666-3,999) per night, a Saudi daily newspaper reported.
Pilgrims performing the “Umrah” pilgrimage condemned the price hike and argued that high prices make it possible for only the wealthy to stay near the Grand Mosque, dividing the holy city on pilgrims’ class lines.
“It is unfair and unholy that these rooms are not made affordable for all to enjoy,” Arab News quoted Majed Hamad as saying. The pilgrim added that prices should be regulated because it is not acceptable to put a price on the “blessings of Ramadan.” Some hotel owners have blamed pilgrims for the rise in price as they are willing to pay exorbitant sums of money for accommodation.
“I do not hold the view that it is entirely fault of hotel owners for the price increase because if members of the public refused to pay thousands of riyals per night for such accommodation, owners would be forced to reduce prices to turn a profit,” Yahya Hindawiyah said.
Many other pilgrims admit they have already paid astronomical sums of money to stay near the Grand Mosque during Ramadan.
“We have been staying at a hotel not far from the Grand Mosque since Ramadan began and have spent nearly SR 200,000 ($53,325),” a pilgrim from Riyadh on condition of anonymity told the Saudi daily, adding that he has been planning the trip since last Ramadan by saving throughout the year in order to be able to enjoy the holy month.
Critics say a lack of government regulation and crackdown is due to the fact that many of high officials have themselves invested in the Makkah hotel industry and are eager to seek return on their investment.
Saad Jameel Al-Qurashi, the chairman of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah, justified the rise in prices. “Businessmen who have invested enormously into these properties are legitimately taking advantage of the peak Ramadan season in order to reap a return on their investment”, he said while adding that there is “nothing wrong with seasonal practice.”
According to STR Global, around 53,000 branded hotel rooms are currently available across the kingdom – about 19,000 in Makkah and another 13,000 in Medina – roughly the same as the city of Dubai. Those mostly provide five-star rooms with a few in the four-star bracket.