Report: Tour agencies want government to open talks with Saudi Arabia over Haj charges

Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam
·1-min read
Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia July 29, 2020. — Saudi Press Agency handout via Reuters
Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia July 29, 2020. — Saudi Press Agency handout via Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 — The Malaysian government must negotiate with its counterparts in Saudi Arabia over the recent hike in Haj charges amid the Covid-19 pandemic, tour operators have said.

In an interview with Utusan Malaysia today, Andalusia Travel & Tour Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Md. Daud Che Ngah said private agencies had previously billed pilgrims approximately RM30,000 each for their services. But due to standard operating procedures (SOP) introduced in response to Covid-19, chances are this amount could rise to RM50,000 per pilgrim.

“Pilgrims cannot avoid paying higher charges. Due to Covid-19, they have to set aside more money for charges such as pilgrimage costs, medical costs, Covid-19 screening, food and accommodation,” Md. Daud was quoted as saying today.

He added that he hopes that the government will negotiate with Saudi Arabia for fairer charges to ease the cost burden shouldered by pilgrims.

Masamas Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd director Abdul Muiz Sulaiman concurred, telling Utusan Malaysia that pilgrims face higher accommodation and logistics charges.

“Previously, one room could accommodate six pilgrims at a total cost of around RM30,000 to RM40,000. Now only two pilgrims are allowed to share one room, so this will rise to around RM70,000 to RM80,000. This is a lot to bear,” he reportedly told Utusan Malaysia.

Previously, Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri had warned prospective pilgrims to brace themselves for the extra costs that will be charged by the government of Saudi Arabia due to Covid-19.

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