An Examination of Evolving Crowd Management Strategies at Pilgrimage Sites: A Case Study of ‘Hajj’ in Saudi Arabia

August 2015 (VOL. 33, NO. 2)

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The growing popularity of large crowded events has complicated their management, leading to the exploration of new crowd management strategies targeted at streamlining operations to address the risks from stampedes, infrastructure collapse, health, and terrorist threats. The emphasis has been to alleviate financial losses, keep event organizers safe from liability, and most importantly keep the attendees safe. Effective communication among and between officials and guests has been identified as a key element in this process. However, few scholars have investigated these strategies among heterogeneous crowds that congregate at religious sites. To overcome this gap, the authors use a case study approach focusing on initiatives adopted in managing approximately 3 million pilgrims from over 140 countries, congregating in Mecca, Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage season. Findings suggest that the recently popularized use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wrist bands for counting pilgrims at ports of entry and mosque gates alone is inadequate. A more networked approach that integrates the voices of Hajj pilgrims in risk communication is needed. Setting up Community Response Grids (CRGs) to use social media channels among pilgrim visitors need to be explored.