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UK hajj travel industry at risk of collapse after Saudi Arabia announces overhaul of pilgrimage entry | UK News

The Uk hajj vacation industry is at risk of collapse soon after Saudi Arabia announced an overhaul of the pilgrimage entry technique this week.

A Twitter account, which routinely concerns updates on matters relating to the two holy mosques in Saudi, uncovered particulars of an on-line government portal where by travellers from chosen nations around the world, which include the Uk, can sign-up their curiosity just before getting randomly picked to vacation.

The hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest metropolis for Muslims.

The new portal cuts out British isles-centered brokers who usually organise the excursion for all-around 25,000 British Muslims each individual 12 months. Businesses that have consumers with existing bookings will be obliged by the Package Travel Polices to refund their prospects.

Journey agent and hajj information Abu Sayed Ansarey described the scenario as a “nightmare” and reported it threatens to wipe out the approximated £175m business.

“This is our earnings and there are a lot of agents who survive on this. We also add to the British financial system,” he advised Sky Information as he exposed he faced paying back again nearly £280,000 in refunds.

Mr Ansarey spelled out that numerous of his clients are hesitant to ship money abroad with out adequate protections.

“I told them they can get their funds again but they say it is not about revenue, they want to go to hajj with anyone they know.

“They want to go the way their predecessors went, with hajj guides like myself.”

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Pilgrims on their way to Mecca

As Sky News set up to film with Mr Ansarey, he been given a connect with from a apprehensive consumer who expressed issues about client security with the new process.

“I have listened to it’s not ATOL secured,” the shopper stated, referring to the UK’s monetary security plan for air bundle holiday seasons. “I never want to reserve employing this portal.”

Yasmin Qureshi, Chair of the All Bash Parliamentary Team on Hajj and Umrah, claims she has warned the Saudi governing administration that their packages do not satisfy United kingdom vacation restrictions.

“I have penned to the Ministry about the whole portal rollout,” she explained to Sky News.

“If one thing goes improper, what is the final comeback for the pilgrim? On the old method, you had ATOL safeguarded offers, so if everything went mistaken we had payment.”

General view of Kaaba at the Mecca's Grand Mosque almost empty of worshippers in 2020
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The Mecca’s Grand Mosque was almost vacant of worshippers in 2020

The Saudi govt has not manufactured any general public bulletins to verify or deny the studies but the portal, called Motawif, is up and operating. When Sky News contacted the enterprise it confirmed the system is made to deal with fraud and make hajj additional obtainable. On its internet site, it claims it is the very first portal in the sector to revolutionise the direct-to-buyer scheduling course of action.

The Uk-hajj journey industry does have a heritage of fraud with some illegitimate operators disappearing with 1000’s of lbs of pilgrims’ cash.

A person man or woman talking to Sky News on problem of anonymity mentioned he backs the strategy of a universal system for hajj deals but that rolling it out just one particular thirty day period forward of the pilgrimage has still left his household frustrated.

“My wife has been seeking to go for lots of yrs and we waited for the pandemic to make way and then booked it straight absent. My young children skimped and saved for this,” he explained.

“It really is a non-refundable deposit and we stand to get rid of £6,000. But my genuine objection is that it truly is so late to make this announcement and we however have not seriously been told just about anything.

Muslim pilgrims perform the final walk around the Kaaba in 2019
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Muslim pilgrims carry out the remaining walk all around the Kaaba in 2019

“If it was my very own option, I would not enter the hajj-lottery this yr due to the fact I’d like to see how it performs prior to I deliver this kind of a huge sum of funds internationally. It’s not wonderful currently being the guinea pig.”

The Civil Aviation Authority recommends vacation insurance policies and applying appropriate credit playing cards where achievable.