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Tue 17 Sep 2013 01:50 PM

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Saudi crackdown on 'illegal' tourism operators

More than 140 foreign operators warned they face penalties unless they meet deadline to update files

Saudi crackdown on 'illegal' tourism operators
Grand Mosque, Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Saudi authorities have warned 142 foreign tourism firms that they face penalties and could have their licences cancelled unless they meet a deadline to update their files, it was reported.

Weeks after it emerged airlines transporting haj pilgrims were being forced to pay a bond to guarantee they will be returned, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) said a 15-day deadline to rectify their status ended Tuesday, the Saudi Gazette reports.

SAGIA said all 142 firms had obtained work licenses in hospitality and operation and management of tourism facilities.

These included 53 limited liability companies, while the remaining 89 were individual establishments and branches of companies.

The Gazette reported that the number of violating companies was highest in Makkah with 50 companies and establishments, followed by Jeddah with 41 and Madinah with 27.

Others were in Riyadh, Al Khobar, Dammam and Taif.

One of the key conditions for a foreign investor to get a license is that the invested capital should be at least $533,289 (SR2 million), according to rules laid out by the SAGIA.

The board can reduce the minimum invested capital in projects within specified regions, or projects that need high technical expertise or are prepared for export.

Earlier this month it emerged that airlines transporting haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia were being forced to pay a minimum SR600,000 ($160,000) as a guarantee they will return all passengers by the end of the season.

The total value of the bond will depend on the number of haj passengers and the cost of a one-way ticket from Jeddah to the pilgrim’s country of origin, the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) said.

Airlines must pay the money into a Saudi financial institution and give the bank guarantee to GACA, which has the authority to deduct the cost of returning any pilgrim not flown out of the country by the end of the haj season.

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