The government’s decision to reduce the number of domestic pilgrims this year by 50 percent has forced Haj service providers to double their charges in order to offset their losses, a senior official said.
Saad Al-Qurashi, chairman of the National Committee for Haj & Umrah, said the 50 percent reduction would have a negative impact on the revenues of Haj companies, who were informed about the cut last June.
Speaking to Arab News, he said the Haj Ministry has completed distribution of tents in Mina among the domestic Haj service providers charging SR1,500 to SR7,500 for a tent, depending on its closeness to Jamrat.
Companies charge different prices ranging between SR7,000 to SR20,000 on the basis of services they offer.
Al-Qurashi said that charges of hotels and furnished apartments near the Grand Mosque have fallen from SR2,800 to SR500 because of a 20 percent cut in foreign pilgrims and 50 percent cut in domestic Hajis.
Haj companies have closed down about 400 branch offices in various parts of the country and retrenched thousands of workers, he said. Al-Qurashi denied press reports about cancellation of Haj flights. “All domestic flights are fully booked for Haj,” he pointed out.
Al-Qurashi said there is a big decrease in the number of pilgrims allocated to licensed Haj companies.
“If a company was licensed to serve 2,000 last year, they will get only 700 this year,” he said. The increase in prices is likely to hike the number of illegal Hajis this year and Al-Qurashi said the number of such pilgrims could reach 500,000 this season.
The government has warned expat illegal Hajis they would be deported and would not be allowed to return for 10 years. The Passport Department said it would deploy female police officers to stop illegal women Hajis.