Travel agents optimistic about religious trips in Ramadan

S. Arabia removes several restrictions to encourage umra, hajj

The first three months of this year witnessed an increase in the number of Jordanian umra travelers, reaching 25,000. (Photo: AFP)
AMMAN — Having removed restrictions on umra (the lesser pilgrimage) trips, travel agents are optimistic about the coming Ramadan season, but also request more support to the sector.اضافة اعلان

Bilal Roben, head of Faith Tourism at the Jordan Travel Agents Association, told Jordan News that Saudi Arabia cancelled preventive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, including the requirement of a PCR test before arrival, prohibiting prayers at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, and imposing social distancing during prayers.

Roben said that the Saudi authorities also cancelled vaccination as a prerequisite for entering the two mosques, as well as quarantine, and that 5-year-old children are now allowed to accompany their parents on umra; those 12 and above had been allowed before that.

The first three months of this year witnessed an increase in the number of Jordanian umra travelers, which reached 25,000. The figure stood at zero in the same period of 2021 and 2020, he said.

Before COVID-19, around 250,000 Jordanians used to do umra every year, according to Roben.

Hajj will be resumed this year, Roben told Jordan News, adding that the Saudi authorities will decide the numbers of pilgrims each country is allowed to send.

According to Roben, 7,500 Jordanians was the yearly share of pilgrims before COVID-19, but no Jordanian could perform hajj over the past two years.

For Odeh Mansour, an umra travel agent, the resumption, after two years, of the trips to perform the lesser pilgrimage is great news and will positively impact travel agents who faced significant economic challenges.

Mansour said that prices of trips are “high” due to shortage of hotel rooms in Mecca and Medina as many hotel had closed during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

An umra trip costs JD275 per person for a quad room and would reach JD300 during the last 10 days of Ramadan, according to Mansour.

Both Roben and Mansour said the government needs to support the sector by exempting agents from paying the annual license fees to the Ministry of Tourism and municipalities.

They also called for facilitating soft loans for travel agencies to help them overcome the repercussions of the pandemic.

Jordan has also started implementing a package of mitigation measures, including the cancellation of PCR tests for visitors to Jordan.

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