2mn Um­rah visas to be is­sued this sea­son

The Financial Daily - - MARKET SUMMARY -

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

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