2mn Umrah visas to be issued this season
ISLAMABAD: The Saudi Government will issue 2 million visas during the ongoing Umrah season and in this context 1.2 million Umrah visas have been issued so far.
This is an increase of 237,681 visas, or 32 per cent, compared with the same period last year, said Isa Rawas, Undersecretary at the Saudi Ministry of Hajj for Umrah Affairs.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Hajj has directed all licensed Umrah service-providing companies and establishments to ensure that pilgrims in Makkah Mukarrmah and Madinah Munawarah are accommodated in hotels and furnished apartments approved by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).
According to a press release received here, there were 71,000 rooms in Makkah Mukarrmah that could accommodate up to 900,000 pilgrims every month, while there were more than 30,000 rooms in Madinah Munawarah that could accommodate more than 365,000 pilgrims monthly.
He said the accommodation capacity in Makkah Mukarrmah to exceed a million pilgrims next week, while it will 400,000 in Madinah Munawarah.
The SCTAhad closed down 36 tourist accommodation facilities in Makkah Mukarrmah and Jeddah, while 40 others may face the same fate if they do not take action to rectify their violations.
The facilities were closed down for failure to obtain formal licenses from the Civil Defense and the municipalities after fail- ing to match the set standards.
Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister, has set up a ministerial committee to oversee the issuing of licenses to Umrah companies, said Isa Rawas, Undersecretary at the Saudi Ministry of Hajj for Umrah Affairs.
The body will consist of experts from the Saudi ministries of Interior and Hajj to ensure quality service provision to growing numbers of Umrah pilgrims and prevent overstaying.
He said the chairman and members of the National Committee for Umrah and Hajj at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry want the number of Umrah companies to be increased. The existing 51 companies are not able to meet the demand, which is likely to increase to 11 million in future, he said. A total of 547,496 Umrah pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia so far, said Rawas. He said the ministry is keeping a close eye on services provided to pilgrims.
Rawas said that the ministry distributes a questionnaire to Umrah pilgrims asking them about the quality of services, so that any company that violates any contractual agreements can be punished.
He said 65 people who came through Umrah companies this year have overstayed, which is an insignificant number compared to the number of incoming pilgrims.
He urged the authorities to lift the ban on 16 Umrah companies because the market needs their services. APP