Ministry to offer low-cost package for local pilgrims
The Haj ministry is focusing on enhancing cost-effective services for domestic pilgrims following earlier complaints of the high expenses involved in making the pilgrimage. This year, the ministry is facilitating arrangements for 168,000 domestic pilgrims to help them perform Haj comfortably and at a low cost.
Owing to the high expenses in the past, the number of domestic pilgrims is expected to drop this year. However, the ministry has addressed this problem by offering low-cost Haj packages. Despite this, there are fears of the triggering of a price war among the Haj services providers which could be just the tip of the iceberg.
The ministry also intends to counter criticism in its procedures of selection of pilgrims in the low-cost package by according more publicity to the registration process to ensure transparency.
According to the ministry’s officials, Haj companies offering low-cost packages are being given incentives such as an increase in the number of pilgrims they can accommodate in the holy sites.
The low-cost Haj package does not include accommodation in the Mina Towers located at the foothills of Mina and neither are the companies contracting with Mina Towers Real Estate Company allowed to take part in the allocation phase for this package.
Moreover, only one camp will be allocated in the low-cost program. However, companies which are willing to offer their services in the low-cost Haj program will be allowed to do so following an agreement with the ministry on the specified services and rates with the condition that the ministry has more than one camp available.
Although the ministry has stated that the low-cost package will cost up to SR1,500, experts who do not want to be named said that it could exceed that amount.
A senior official in the Haj Ministry, Abdul Rahman Al-Nafi, said that 53 locations had been allocated for the internal pilgrims in the low-cost Haj program. Companies will be able to choose which of these locations they would like to offer the pilgrims and the capacity of each location.
Furthermore, he pointed out that the ministry had ensured that the guide to the procedures for this year’s companies who were offering the low-cost Haj package for domestic pilgrims would be released well in advance.
He said that this was the first time in history that the Haj procedures including services, location of accommodation, and other related issues would be distributed early.
“This year, the total number of domestic pilgrims stand at 168,000 including 120,000 pilgrims with regular packages and 41,000 covered under the low-cost package,” he said, adding that 116 Haj companies had expressed their interest to participate in offering the low-cost Haj but only 53 were selected.
The allocation of accommodation in the holy sites is complete and the ministry is currently working on the preparation of the Haj arrangements, the official confirmed.