Saudi Arabia is a world leader in crowd management and use of technology to serve pilgrims
The successive achievements and the implementation of growing projects have made the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a world leader in managing crowds that perform the Hajj rituals every year. However, the Kingdom had to reduce the number of pilgrims this year, driven by the precautionary measures deemed necessary to preserve the health and safety of pilgrims in light of the repercussions of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has harnessed, from an early stage, its various resources, and launched its operational plan for the Hajj season this year, which includes a package of services that support electronic and technical applications that make the pilgrim’s journey easy and comfortable, with a focus on improving services by raising the efficiency of performance, and proficiency in providing work.
The Ministry has completed all sets required for the transportation of pilgrims amid the application of precautionary measures, through urgent projects for high-frequency transportation, establishing systems and techniques for monitoring and follow-up, developing spatial databases on the journey of pilgrims, developing models and simulations in the transportation system for pilgrims, electronic integration with the Transport Information Center, and developing mechanism of private transport contracts, in order to improve the transport service and guarantee the rights of all parties.
In a pioneering step, the ministry has implemented the electronic delivery of housing camps to pilgrims in the Holy Sites, and electronic linkage with the concerned authorities to follow up on reports and malfunctions in the camps, in addition to launching the project of pre-prepared meals in cooperation with catering providers, as this would ensure a healthy environment for pilgrims under the exceptional circumstances under which the Hajj is performed this year.
In order to advance the service of the pilgrims, the ministry has enabled Hajj agencies to transform into shareholding companies, as part of the ministry’s strategies to achieve the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 by developing the Hajj and Umrah system, and moving from serving the pilgrims to a specialized industry that is provided with professionalism.
Also, the Ministry has developed the Hajj service agencies, with the aim of improving the services provided to pilgrims using the latest technology and employing human efforts and technical capabilities to achieve this goal.
Stemming from its belief that human health and safety come first, and out of the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests of the Two Holy Mosques, a decision has been taken to limit the number of pilgrims to 60,000 due to the Coronavirus and its implications, for the second year. The nature of the crowds during Hajj 'makes the application of the highest degree of precaution extremely important.
The Ministry’s Vision Realization Office has worked extensively to boost the level of coordination with the entities supporting the realization of the vision, and to enhance the quality and harmonization of initiatives and projects, in light of the awareness of all employees of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of the importance of serving the pilgrims.
Moreover, the Ministry has launched the electronic path for domestic pilgrims to book and purchase Hajj packages, to match this electronic achievement with the qualitative leap achieved by the Ministry in various fields of services for pilgrims, including the expansion of technology in its various sectors and departments, and the introduction of the “Smart Hajj” card, which was awarded the Makkah Excellence Award in its twelfth session.
The card adopts “near field communication technology “NFC” that allows reading the card through self-service devices available in the Holy Sites. The card includes several features such as guiding pilgrims to their accommodation in the holy sites, controlling access to various facilities, and limiting illegal Hajj.
Among the technical projects employed by the Ministry to serve pilgrims is the “electronic bracelet” that shows the identity of the pilgrims including their official data, in addition to what is included in the Ministry’s website, where there is a unified call center, and links to all partners in the Hajj and Umrah system.
The website facilitates browsing for all information required by pilgrims, including the sectors participating in the services of pilgrims, such as the General Cars Syndicate, tourism companies, and institutions for domestic pilgrims.
In this regard, the Ministry has launched the “Smart Hajj” platform and the “Service Monitoring” initiative to raise the level of housing services in order to provide additional spaces for pilgrims and regulate high-frequency transport systems.
They has launched other programs dedicated to crowd management through an electronic system for preparing and monitoring the grouping dispatch plan, in addition to increasing the absorptive capacity, building camps equipped with various services, and the “electronic system for the Holy Sites” initiative, through a technical monitoring system to measure the readiness of the holy sites and its relevant facilities.