Hyderabad: Muslims in the state prefer to undertake the Umrah pilgrimage during the month of Ramzan. According to tour operators, the number of people signing up for tours conducted during the holy month is increasing by the year.
Some people have approached travel agents and made bookings in the month of February itself. “Many first-timers started making enquiries in January, though Ramzan begins in mid-May. People are keen on spending the holy month in Mecca and Madina,” said Mohammed Faiyaz of Al Mizaan Tours and Travels.
He explained that the month of Ramzan was preferred by people, irrespective of their social status, to perform the Umrah.
“The cost of undertaking the pilgrimage during Ramzan is higher than it is at other times. A pilgrim has to shell out about Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 more during the holy month. Yet, many people prefer to undertake the journey then,” he said.
Last year, the government of Saudi Arabia started levying a charge of 2,000 Saudi Riyal on repeat visitors who had already performed the Umrah in the past.
“Repeat visitors are usually affluent persons; they continue to perform Umrah during Ramzan. They opt for special packages that cost up to Rs 2 lakh per pilgrim,” said Mohammed Siraj Khan, the general secretary of the Haj and Umrah Tours Organisers’ Association.
The cost of regular packages offered by the tour operators during Ramzan is in the range of Rs 70,000 to Rs 1 lakh. “It includes the cost of the air ticket, visa processing, hotel accommodation, food, and transport within Saudi Arabia,” Mr Siraj Khan said.
Tour operators say that the costs of tour packages rise due to the increase in hotel tariffs and airfare. “Hotels in the holy cities of Mecca and Madina increase their tariffs during the month of Ramzan. Similarly, airlines also have higher fares then because of the massive demand,” said Mirza Faiz Baig, a tour operator. He said that prices varied in the first and second fortnights of Ramzan.
“During the second fortnight, Saudi nationals and people from the Gulf Countries come in large numbers to Mecca and Madina. This further causes tariffs to increase, as hotels become full,” Mr Baig explained.
Haj Tour Operators’ body seeks police help
The Haj and Umrah Tour Organisers’ Association has demanded the initiation of police action against “fake tour operators”.
Mohammed Siraj Khan, the general secretary of the association, said that several persons claimed to organise religious pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia and other countries.
“These people do not have licences issued by the government or local agencies. Still, they collect money and provide assurances that they will organise the Umrah pilgrimage at a cost of Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000. We cannot even get an air ticket at that price,” he said.
Mr Khan said that several such agents had collected money from persons wishing to undertake the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages, and duped them....