Local travel agencies expect ‘big losses’ after Hajj ban

pilgrims perform Hajj
Pilgrims are pictured at the city of Mecca in this undated photo. Saudi Arabia recently announced that due to the ongoing pandemic, only residents of Saudi Arabia would be allowed to perform hajj (greater pilgrimage) to Mecca. (Photos: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah (major and minor pilgrimages to Mecca)  announced recently that the hajj season for this year will be limited to only 60,000 citizens and residents from inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. اضافة اعلان

Jordanian travel agencies expect that the decision will have grave ramifications on their income.

Hossam Al-Hiyari, the spokesman for the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, said in remarks to Jordan News that "the Saudi side had announced that the Hajj would be restricted to pilgrims inside Saudi Arabia, including residents and citizens, due to health requirements dictated by the pandemic.”

"The ministry understands the Saudi decision, with the anticipation of new changes that will occur during the pandemic,” Hiyari said. “The decision had to be made in order for the hajj to be safe."

The spokesman stressed that "the circumstance is exceptional and everyone is required to accept and cooperate, as the virus has affected all aspects of life."

The decision sparked concerns among local travel agencies in Jordan, who despite the logical reasons behind the decision stressed, worry about the impact on their business.

"We expect big losses in the upcoming days; we used to rely on the annual income from the hajj season as we used to receive a high demand for hajj every year," said travel agency employee, Yaser Abdo. "I thank God that our agency, on the other hand, provides traveling services for all countries. This may help us cope with such hard conditions."

Typically, millions of Muslims visit Saudi Arabia for the hajj pilgrimage. In 2019, two and a half million visitors made the trip, including an estimated 7,000 Jordanians.

Travel agencies in Jordan make a living from helping Jordanians make the hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to the KSA — an industry which has been hard-hit by two years of closures due to COVID-19.

"I can tell that my colleagues who are specialized in hajj traveling services are having very hard times, especially since they had high hopes that things would be better this year,” he said.

"Last year, things were difficult, but they did not expect that this year things will be even worse. Some of these agencies will close soon, can anyone tell me where can the employees work? How can they live now? All of these conditions contribute in increasing unemployment and poverty."

"It is Saudi Arabia's full right to follow strict health protocols to protect their citizens from the pandemic; we cannot prevent them from doing that,” Abdo concluded. “We really want now for the government to stand by us, to lower the taxes and to lower prices so we can at least cope and compensate our high losses."

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