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Tue 11 Jun 2013 10:05 AM

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Saudi tourism to lose $1.3bn on Umrah visa limits

The National Committee for Haj and Umrah voices concerns over duration of Umrah visas

Saudi tourism to lose $1.3bn on Umrah visa limits
An aerial view shows the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Saudi Arabian tourism industry and Umrah visa operators claim they will lose SR5bn ($1.3bn) in revenue after the kingdom limited the number of Umrah visas and their duration.

Muslim pilgrims who make the voyage to Makkah will now only be allowed to stay in Saudi Arabia for 14 days because of renovations and an expansion of the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site.

The National Committee for Haj and Umrah (NCHU), which represents companies that facilitate pilgrims’ trips to Makkah, claims the decision, announced this month, came too close to Ramadan, when most pilgrims make their journey, and Umrah operators could be forced to refund some visas issued for longer than 14 days.

Hotels, airlines and other tourism operators also would lose out.

“The loss to 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,” NCHU deputy president Abdullah Qadi told local media.

Head of the Hotels and Tourism Committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, head Walid Abu-Sabaa, said limiting the Umrah visas would be “disastrous” for Umrah-related companies.

It has been reported that the Ministry of Haj would force pilgrims who performed Umrah during the upcoming Ramadan into two scheduled groups to ensure they did not stay in the kingdom for more than 14 days.

Qadi called on the ministry to reconsider the decision in light of the huge financial impact and said a reduction in the number of foreign Umrah pilgrims would not solve congestion issues due to the expansion of the Grand Mosque, according to Arab News.

Instead, the NCHU has submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Haj on how to organize Umrah pilgrims, including restricting worshippers from entering the circumambulation area (mataf).

The expansion the Grand Mosque in Makkah will allow it to receive 2m pilgrims at a time and is the largest expansion ever undertaken of the site.

The project has been reported to cost more than $21bn.

A new railway also is being built to improve transport to Makkah, while the city is undergoing a major facelift with new skyscrapers and hotels to accommodate visitors.

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shaikh 6 years ago

Though the new rule may be practical due to expansion work ,the saudi govt. should have announced it at least 3 to 4 months before.

anon 6 years ago

This has added a lot of stress (financial and emotional). As a muslim one must understand and apply what the Islam adivices 'not to cause others hardship'(to the nearest meaning) . Due to the expansion, the number of people must be limited to 2 weeks;however, this is very short notice. The Saudi government must intervene and change the rules for this year.

abu yusuf 6 years ago

your comment -
“The loss to 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,”

Airlines are not refunding money, hotels dont care and will not refund
only people who will loose it the pilgrim
for most people this is alot of money!!!!!
this is very unprofessional - this should have been advised 6 months before - the only loser is the muslim pilgrim

nadeem 6 years ago

I just wish the respected decision maker understands how long people save for visiting the house of ALLAH SWT and this these matter should have been planned prioir to Umra session.

Farha 6 years ago

I agree that this is extremely stressfull for common people who save all their hard earned money to go for umrah in ramadan and after booking flight and hotels for the whole month finds out at the last minute that the visa is only for 15 days. Absolutely heart rendering to lose all that money and spend more to rebook new flight tickets as the old ones are not flexbile tickets. 15 days visa issue must be re thought for people who can prove that they have already pre-booked and will loose all their money. I just hope and pray the the Saudi govt re-think this proposal.

Haniyah 6 years ago

I completely agree with you...It's heart breaking to learn this news at such last moment(just few days before the coming of Ramadan).Already done my booking of flight,hotels,etc...Not that sad for loosing money but tremendously affected for not being able to spend the whole month of Ramadan in Masjid Al Haram..I'm desperate and pray that Allah change the mind of the Saudi govt and facilitate for us our affair,ameen.

Annoyed 6 years ago

Typical Saudi disregard and unprofessionalism at its best. No problem with limiting visas if there is a need - but enforcing this a couple of months before ramadhan? Who were the decision makers - and were they on vacation for the last 8 months?

abdul 6 years ago

I think they should make that dicission at least couple of months before. But I think that they made right dicission, becouse of huge expansion work. I'ts better for all if they can reduce the gethering in the month of ramadan and make easy for the Hajj.

Salim Ahmed 6 years ago

I fully agree with you. Now that we made all our reservations and hotel bookings who is going to pay for the loss? definitely not these Saudis who as always are arrogant and care least for visitors from all over the world. And they forget that they live on these pilgrims who pay millions for their stay.

arshad 6 years ago

some people have booked hotels and airline tickets a year ago and are now been told you wont get a visa at all! some companies are demanding £200 and more for visas!