Hajj tour operators in Nigeria have said that the Saudi Arabia’s decision to scale back this year’s hajj pilgrimage will result in major loss of revenue for them, but many accepted it was necessary as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kingdom, on Tuesday, announced that it was limiting the number of domestic pilgrims attending the hajj to around 1,000 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first year in modern times.
Hajj minister Mohammed Benten told a news briefing that strict health criteria would be used to select eligible pilgrims among citizens and residents. Some 2.5 million pilgrims typically visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long haj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim.
Reacting to the Saudi decision, the Association for Hajj & Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON) said the restriction of international pilgrims would put its members in a very tight corner because many had made huge financial commitment.
“The Saudi Arabia’s decision on 2020 hajj exercise will cost tour operators an estimated one billion Naira,” AHUON President, Salihu Butu told Daily Trust last night.
“There are lots of taxes and agencies we pay to and to most of them, we pay annually whether hajj or no hajj, plus office rent and staff wages,” he added.
Butu, however, said airlines and service providers had extended ticket validity and hotel reservations to next hajj exercise.
“The good news is that the Airlines had agreed that we can use the ticket for the two next year.
“The service providers in Saudi Arabia also said we can defer the hotel reservations till next hajj.
“We can only have delay in getting back our money but we will not lost them. We can only lost some logistics in between,” he said.
He said some intending pilgrims had agreed to wait till next year, while others had started demanding refund of deposits.
“For those who have demanded for their money, we have started making refunds,” he said.
‘We accept Saudi measures in good faith’
The Managing Director/CEO of the Comerel Travels and Tours Limited, Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad, has said that he and his colleagues in the Private tour sector has accepted the decision of the Saudi Arabia Authority on this year’s hajj exercise.
He said with the COVID-19, the world cannot be the same again and that it is a reality that also affected Muslims and the Hajj pilgrimage.
“Whatever may have been lost in this 2020, we have to bear. We believe Allah will replace it for us and even better in 2021.
Former AHOUN president, Alhaji Abdulfatah Abdulmojeed said the implication of the Kingdom’s decision would be very huge.