(MENAFN - Arab News) The Haj Ministry will establish a terminal for pilgrims at Prince Muhammad International Airport in Madinah this year to meet the requirements of growing numbers of faithful who come for Haj and Umrah.
Sahel Al-Sabban, deputy minister for transport and projects, said the new pilgrim terminal would be completed by the end of this year at a cost of SR 30.14 million.
The Madinah airport is currently witnessing an expansion project that will increase its capacity to eight million passengers in the first phase and 12 million in the second phase.
The new Madinah airport project includes construction of new terminals covering 138,000 square meters. It will have 18 departure gates with air-bridges linked to aircraft in addition to parking for 20 planes. The project's total area spreads on four million square meters.
Last year, GACA opened the newly established international terminal at the airport that can handle 35 flights daily. "The new terminal has the capacity to accommodate 600 passengers per hour," GACA said, adding that the capacity would double to 1,200 passengers once the second phase is completed.
Al-Sabban said his ministry would carry out a number of new projects this year including the branch building and an agency for Umrah in Makkah, adding that allocations have been made for them in this year's budget.
"The new projects are being implemented at the start of the Umrah season that will continue for eight months," the minister said.
Last year more than 5.5 million pilgrims performed Umrah. "It is 18 percent more than the number in 2011 when 4.1 million came for Umrah," Al-Sabban said.
He attributed the cooperation of government and private agencies to the success of the Haj and Umrah operations last year.
He emphasized the importance of new electronic track system, saying it would improve services to Haj and Umrah pilgrims.
"The new system will enable pilgrims to know the services they are going to receive in Makkah and other holy sites from their home countries," Al-Sabban said.
The system will also enable pilgrims to pay for services using credit cards. It also involves taking fingerprints of pilgrims before issuing visas. Pilgrims will be able to select from different options of services.
"The ministry's electronic gateway would be launched soon after completing the necessary infrastructure," he said. The infrastructure is being developed at highest standards with the support of specialized companies.
The ministry has trained a large number of Saudis to work for the Haj and Umrah service sector. It has licensed about 200 companies to provide Umrah services. There are more than 2,700 foreign agents in the sector.