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Author ORCID Identifier

0000-0002-1214-1500

Abstract

This empirical study examines the patterns of internet use during Hajj, with the broader aim of providing suggestions on how organisations can improve risk communication at crowded religious venues using traditional and new media. The research team adopted a convenience sampling strategy to conduct in-person surveys of 348 Hajj pilgrims in the vicinity of the Grand Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia during the October 2013 season. Of these, 150 pilgrims used the internet and their responses were analysed using simple descriptive statistics and binary regression analyses. The findings of this study suggest that Hajj pilgrims prefer accessing the internet through their smartphone devices and laptops, and both first timers and repeat pilgrims trusted websites hosted by the Saudi Arabian authorities, and their group leaders. Additionally, findings suggest that the trust in information sources and patterns of social media use differed by demographic characteristics such as age, language and economic characteristics. This underscores the need for diversifying the use of both traditional and new media communication channels to increase the diffusion and penetration of risk information for varied groups. Cross-checking of government efforts with such empirical studies helps demonstrate whether the funds expended to improve risk communication and raise hazard awareness are on point to make the pilgrims safer. The paper concludes by acknowledging that although the internet and social media are revolutionising the kinds of information available to pilgrims, they may lead to a loss in the sanctity, simplicity and equanimity of partaking in a pilgrimage, or bring harm to pilgrims through the misuse of personal data collected through social media sites. Suggestions are made to authorities and event organisers to keep a balance between traditional and modern practices of conducting a pilgrimage and designing information and communication technologies. A call for inspiring pilgrims to not only be consumers of information, but rather, providers of information by being ever vigilant is made. Presently, few pilgrimage destinations are using the power of the internet and social media for garnering pilgrims’ participation in risk communication and crisis preparedness which is a missed opportunity.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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