Saudi Arabia’s New Hajj Lottery Could Drive British Muslim Travel Companies Out of Business
Only a few thousand British Muslims will be permitted to participate in the hajj this year, after Saudi Arabia put in place a new lottery system for applying to make the religious pilgrimage, in a move that British Muslim travel companies say could drive them out of business, The Guardian reported. The Saudi government announced the new system earlier this month, in order to crack down on fraud; the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah called on those who had already booked a trip to perform the hajj to request refunds from their tour companies. The hajj will be held this year in Mecca from July 7-12; some 2.5 million pilgrims participated in 2019, the year before the outbreak of the coronavirus led to limits on the number of people allowed to take part. This year 1 million Muslims will be allowed to participate in the hajj. The hajj industry in Britain is worth about $244.3 million, according to the report. Travel operators are teetering on the edge after two seasons of the coronavirus, while some have already spent money in Saudi Arabia ahead of next month’s hajj, and refunding pilgrims’ deposits for hajj trips that can not be taken could cause them to go under. Meanwhile, The cost of the hajj has increased across most Arab countries in comparison to previous years, the New Arab reported. The highest average cost to complete the pilgrimage is from Qatar, at $10,971, and the lowest average cost is from Oman at $1,797. The cost depends on areas including global inflation, flight prices and fees for mandatory services.