Increase in prices for Umrah by 150 percent this year
KUWAIT CITY, Nov 5: On Wednesday, the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs issued a circular containing the conditions organizing the Umrah (minor pilgrimage) during the current exceptional circumstances imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most prominent among the conditions is the need for quarantine in Saudi Arabia for a period of three days, reports Al-Rai daily.
The ministry’s circular neglected to highlight the mechanism for the return of pilgrims, and whether they will be subject to quarantine, how long the quarantine period will be for, and if they need to be tested and obtain a PCR scan certificate before they return.
The circular was addressed to the owners of Umrah expedition offices, and travel and tourism offices (licensed).
According to the circular of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the regulations for Umrah are in accordance with the requirements needed for the following categories –
For citizens –
1. The citizen should be between 18 and 70 years of age
2. After entering Saudi Arabia, register with the “Tawakolna” app, according to the passport number
3. Conduct a PCR test 72 hours before coming to Saudi Arabia from an accredited health center
4. Commit to a comprehensive three-day health quarantine period in Saudi Arabia. The three main meals should be made available are at the residence of the pilgrim, either in Makkah or any other areas of Saudi Arabia for a period of three days before the start of the rituals
5. Reservations must be made through the “Umrah” app according to the available dates and times.
For expatriates –
1. The expatriate must be between 18 and 50 years of age
2. Perform a PCR test 72 hours before coming to Saudi Arabia from an approved health center
3. Buy full-service packages and obtain visas from approved Umrah companies
4. Commit to the health quarantine requirement for three days after arrival, and before starting the rituals
5. Reservations are to be made through the “Umrah” app according to the available times and dates.
With the Saudi authorities announcing the start of receiving pilgrims after an 8-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are reports suggesting increase in the prices for Umrah (minor pilgrimage) by up to 150 percent, reports Al-Qabas daily.
Prior to the pandemic, the total cost of Umrah for a period of three days was KD 90, including hotel-stay and a round-trip ticket. However, travel agencies are now asking between KD 85 and KD 160 for tickets alone and excluding hotel-stay. The owners of the travel agencies justify this by claiming lack of available places and high prices of accomodation and transportation in the city of Mecca.
Many travel office owners stated that the conditions introduced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic have led to the increase in the prices especially in terms of sterilization, adherence to spacing and personal hygiene requirements, which reduces the absorption capacity of hotels and thus raises the costs.
They revealed that they are flooded with enquiries about prices, the method of registration, and the most important conditions, despite complaints by some about the somewhat high prices.
Meanwhile, official sources revealed that the registration for performing Umrah has become available online, confirming the existence of “coordination between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs to control prices and prevent the situation from being exploited for increasing prices unnecessarily”.
The sources stated that, “There is a tendency for the GCC countries to be excluded from the conditions set by the Saudi authorities for Umrah. However, the Umrah offices have not been notified of any change so far and are awaiting final instructions.”
Some of the conditions which have been set for those willing to apply Umrah, are –
1. Applicant should be between the age of 18 and 50 years
2. A PCR test certificate issued 72 hours in advance
3. Prior accommodation reservation
4. A 3-day quarantine period
5. Distribution of the pilgrims into groups of at least 50 people.