By Rebecca Bundhun
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In the past, pilgrimages lacked the trappings of luxurious trips, with travellers organising their own arrangements. But that is rapidly changing.
“Only now is the global travel industry beginning to recognise the tremendous impact and opportunity of assisting and servicing the millions of people who travel to the Middle East for religious purposes,” says Kevin Wright, the president of the World Religious Travel Association (WRTA).
About 300 million religious tourists travel annually. Apart from Muslim pilgrimages, millions of visitors travel regularly to religious sites in France, Italy and India.
“This has resulted in more major tour operators, hotels and other suppliers entering the marketplace than ever before,” says Mr Wright.
To capitalise on the demand for religious trips to Saudi Arabia, there are now scores of tour operators all over the world that specialise in selling packages for the Haj and Umrah.
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