Saudi hotels hit by new Umrah decision
Riyadh, June 11, 2013
The Saudi Haj Ministry's decision to limit the validity of Umrah visas to 14 days is likely to hit hotels, airlines and Umrah operators badly and with experts putting their total loss at SR5 billion ($1.3 billion).
As per the new rule adopted by the Ministry of Haj, the Umrah performers will be split into two groups to ensure pilgrims do not exceed the permitted 14 days in the Kingdom, said a Arab News report, citing the National Committee for Haj and Umrah (NCHU).
"The ministry has decided to reduce the number of Umrah performers coming from outside the Kingdom during Ramadan and allowed 14 days for pilgrims to leave the Kingdom after performing the rituals," it stated.
The ministry said the decision will help in the smooth completion of the ongoing expansion project at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
“The loss of Umrah firms and institutions will be colossal during the upcoming season as the decision of the Ministry of Haj came late, notably after the Umrah firms had entered into contracts and obligations with Umrah agents outside the Kingdom,” the NCHU deputy president Abdullah Qadi was quoted as saying in the report.
He said it was difficult to assess total losses arising from the decision as it caused wide ranging disturbances in airline bookings, the hotel sector and Umrah operators and other service sectors, such as the transportation sector.
In another development, the Housing Committee for Pilgrims in Makkah has said that finding a sufficient number of houses to accommodate pilgrims during the upcoming Haj season will be a difficult task.