Makkah, also known as Mecca and regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam, is in the Hejaz region in Saudi Arabia, about 40 miles from Jeddah. In 2012 its population was about 2 million, but that number triples every year during the Hajj (pilgrimage) held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month.

Pilgrims will have more lodging options now that the first Marriott Hotel in Makkah has opened. The 426-guest-room property, with an arabesque theme, is on a hilltop overlooking the Holy City. In a press release, Marriott describes its hotel as a “futuristic, comfortable and convenient place to stay while [customers undertake] one of the most important journeys in their lives.”

Marriott says the regular guest rooms are larger than other hotels in the Holy City and furnished with modern conveniences. The Greatroom lobby is part of Marriott’s wider initiative to transform lobbies from formal spaces to local destinations, where guests relax and socialize. Technology features include mobile check-in and check-out. The hotel, which has 2,050  sq. ft. of meeting space, offers shuttle service to Haram (the holy site) several times a day.

Most significantly, Marriott has stepped up its service to a growing audience. The annual pilgrimage of Hajj and Umrah (a pilgrimmage that can be undertaken at any time) is a tradition that Muslims from all over the world need to fulfill at least once in their lifetime. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) forecasts that domestic tourism will grow to 128 million trips and 640 million nights by 2019.

“It’s very fitting that our flagship brand, Marriott Hotels, is seeing a rapid expansion in the Kingdom.  The opening of a Marriott Hotel in Makkah is part of our commitment to fill a growing gap in the religious tourism sector in the region, which experts estimate will exponentially increase as the population of the Islamic faith grows. We are privileged to have opened our first-ever Marriott Hotel in this Holy City to serve millions of global pilgrims over the years to come,” said Alex Kyriakidis, president, Middle East & Africa of Marriott International.

Other hotel brands are capitalizing on the growth as well. Abraj Kudai will be the world’s largest hotel by room count when it opens in 2017 in Makkah. The $3.5 billion site will have 12 towers, 10,000 rooms and 70 restaurants, plus helipads and a full-size convention center.

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