Religious tourism encompassed the medieval forms of organized travel in this era and they endured it as an enormous industry.
Nearly 300 million to 330 million tourists frequent the world’s key religious places each year, according to a study. They contrived some 600 million domestic and universal religious trips along with the world, generating about US$18 billion global income. But because of the spread of coronavirus, it makes up an enormous lump of the overall tourism sector, with 63.8% of tourists abating their travel schedule.
Although the prudent optimism is indicated by many countries’ tourism ministries and tour promoters all around the region, during the summer of Covid-19, yet the tourism sector in the Middle East is oozing.
A concern of all faiths:
As Covid-19 spread and became a universal pandemic, governments beyond the world shut down sacred places and temporarily barred religious tourism.
This measure has afflicted many famous destinations of all religions. Jerusalem, Vatican City, and Mecca, which attract many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim travelers per year, are amid the worst distress.
That has had big economic significance for the host countries.
For instance, normally about 2.5 million Muslims from across the globe will perform the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, and nearly about 2 million arriving from out of Saudi Arabia.
This year only around 10,000 people were predicted to come for pilgrimage while perceiving social distance measures.
The Saudi Government normally earns about $12 billion each year from the hajj and umrah- a small pilgrimage that is accepted throughout the year.
They identified these expeditions as a method to alter the cutback from being interdependent on the oil sector. Round the year pilgrimage visits donate to 20% of the country’s non-oil total domestic product and about 7% of the total GDP.
Saudi’s recession is already reeling from the crash of low oil prices that led to budget shortage. We expect it to flinch further by 6.8%.
Countries like Israel are still not permitting tourists to avert virus variants from scattering, while other countries get just a fragment of tourists that they usually used to host a few years ago. Despite these conditions, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan have started to busily groom for the forthcoming, and have invested funds and expenditure into upgrading and renovating important religious and heritage places.
But it has to linger and watch if the Middle East will thrive in attracting hopeful tourists and be able to manage the huge potential of this universal trend.
Another country to join the list is Jordan. It hosts 35 Islamic places and shrines, and 34 Christian holy places, which closed its borders because of Covid-19. Tourism results in about 15% of the region’s GDP and sustains approximately 55,000 jobs.
Previously, about 1 million tourists frequented Wadi Musa, the Jordanian Valley of Moses- an essential place where Moses is said to have generated water from a rock. Up to 80% of people’s revenue in the area depends on tourism.
Tourism income in Jordan lessened by 10.7% to $1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2020 as the pandemic escalated. This is a similar tale in the Middle East.
In Iran, about 20.000 local travelers and 66 broad tourists visited Yazd- a well-known UNESCO heritage place that dates back to A.D.224–during the month’s March- June. This place is a holy site for disciples of Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. The number of travelers in the current year makes up just 1% of the figure from the previous year.
Many sites of pilgrimage assist the entire business in travel, transport, and accommodation, which has taken a downfall.
Between economic needs and security concerns:
Although it is transparent that Middle Eastern countries are functioning tough to bring possible tourists, even the possibility of profit in due course does not distribute security concerns and skepticism.
There is an aggressive opposition to Iranian Shia faith travelers in regions like Jordan and Egypt. Many Jordanians have revealed violations to the idea of unfolding the country to Iranian travelers because of guarded and trust concerns.
We need cooperation at this hour:
All authorities have clearly revealed that cooperation between Egypt, Jordan, and they needed Israel at this hour to encourage religious tourism and for the regions to relish the inflow of travelers.
Many experts reveal they are open to packages of all three countries included in it, as it was in the early 1990s, so it will be helpful for tourists.
According to Israeli Tourism Ministry, the travelers can benefit from the tour operators who operate mainly from the source countries like South America and India, that advertise multi-destination deals that involve Jordan and Egypt.
The job on antique places cherished by millions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews around the world will be carried on, and the tour guides, the drivers, the interpreter, and the hoteliers will tolerantly wait for the time when the pandemic fades so that the temples, churches, and mosques will reopen with domestic and international tourists again.