This year’s Hajj pilgrimage was open to 1 million pilgrims from Saudi Arabia. By 2030, Saudi Arabia would like to host as many as 30 million pilgrims. To make this ambitious goal possible, the Kingdom is betting on digital technology.
One tech initiative that was launched by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah earlier this year is Hajj Smart ID, a smart ID card with barcodes containing pilgrim’s personal information and documentation. The card frees pilgrims from having to carry official documents, and it also helps guide pilgrims to their residences, among other things.
Last year, Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) and Doyof Al Rahman Program (DARP) launched the Pilgrim’s Smart Bracelet (NUSK) project. The bracelet is intended to help organizers track pilgrim’s health information and vaccination records.
Tech initiatives like Hajj Smart ID and the smart bracelet project are guided by the Pilgrim Experience Program, a core component of Saudi Vision 2030. The program strives to give as many Muslims as possible the opportunity to perform Hajj and Umrah to the fullest extent while working on enhancing their experience.
“These technological solutions can help attract more Muslims to the two holy mosques, ultimately achieving the Kingdom’s goals in the Saudi Vision 2030 to welcome millions of pilgrims and help them with high-quality services and enrich their experience in the kingdom,” said Amr Al-Madah, Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah.
For the last two decades, the Hajj pilgrimage has been typically attended by 2 to 3 millions of pilgrims. The last three years were exceptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the year 2020 seeing a record low attendance of just 1,000 pilgrims. It will be interesting to see how this new digital technology will be able to effectively handle almost 30x the amount of pilgrims by the end of the decade.
Emirates Airline To Invest $2 Billion On Major Upgrades
Emirates plans a huge retrofit on its fleet and an upgrade to the inflight experience.
Emirates Airline has just announced plans to improve its inflight experience for passengers. The carrier has budgeted $2 billion to refit the interiors of over 120 of its aircraft, aiming for a more modern aesthetic for cabins, along with better food choices, modern inflight entertainment options, and a significant service overhaul.
Emirates is well known for its premium service, so this overhaul is an ambitious decision, as many other airlines are trying their hardest to increase revenues and reduce costs.
“Emirates is flying against the grain and investing to deliver ever better experiences to our customers. Through the pandemic we’ve continued to launch new services and initiatives to ensure our customers travel with the assurance and ease, including digital initiatives to improve customer experiences on the ground. Now we’re rolling out a series of intensive programmes to take Emirates’ signature inflight experiences to the next level,” says Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline.
The investment aims to ensure Emirates stays on top form, with many of the upgrades scheduled to materialize quickly. For the physical refit, aircraft are scheduled to enter the Emirates Engineering Center in November. So what can passengers expect once work is complete? The most significant change will be to aircraft interiors, where flyers of all classes will immediately spot new flooring, paneling, and reupholstered seats.
As well as a physical overhaul, the airline plans to upgrade entertainment systems, adding a “Cinema in the Sky” experience, complete with a bespoke app. In addition, better meal choices will reflect changing dietary preferences, including a new vegan menu and a nod to sustainability — though there will remain a strong luxury vibe to the proceedings, as the company has entered an exclusive agreement to offer Dom Perignon vintage champagne on board, as well as delicacies such as Persian caviar.
Though many of the improvements may seem trivial, Emirates is hoping that along with a huge cabin overhaul, their overall flight experience will continue to make travel a pleasurable experience, elevating their service above the competition.