In what could turn to be nightmare for the Private Tour Operators (PTOs), the government of Saudi Arabia has come up with new directions that Hajj can be performed through PTOs only once in five years.
This rule, to be implemented from pilgrimage 2013, is likely to hit the business of tour operators since 45,000 pilgrims of 1.72 lakh Indian Hajj passengers each year choose to go on their own. The decision is also to affect the private agencies.
The decision of Saudi government after India made the holy pilgrimage through the Hajj Committee of India a once in a lifetime affair.
A circular issued by Saudi’s ministry of Hajj, also posted on the Hajj Committee’s website, asks consular offices of different countries in Jeddah to communicate this to tour operators their respective countries.
However, staff of the travel agencies looking after pilgrims and mahram (close male relative) of pilgrims, but who have not performed Hajj themselves in the past five years, have been exempted. The new rule applies to pilgrims visiting Mecca from across the world.
The Hajj Committee charges between Rs 1.30 lakh and Rs 1.60 lakh per pilgrim, while travel through PTOs costs between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 2.25 lakh. The government subsidy for pilgrims going through Hajj Committee is Rs 45,000.
The decision invoked will be set back to the private agencies operating in J&K also. Pertinently the number of operators were increasing at significant pace after direction of Hajj Committee of India to make Hajj once in life time affair.