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  • محمدعلی مقامی ( یکشنبه 88/6/1 :: ساعت 1:48 صبح)

  • Marked drop in Umrah traffic from Riyadh
    By Shahid Ali Khan
    RIYADH – A marked drop is seen in demand for Umrah tours this Ramadan due to swine flu concerns, according to Umrah tour operators here.
    These operators, like every year, have arranged a daily bus service that offers a packaged round-trip from Riyadh-Makkah and Riyadh-Makkah-Madina and back.
    The packaged tour fares, however, dropped this Ramadan following the decline in demand for Umrah tours, said the operators surveyed in districts such as Hai Al-Wazarat and Batha, which have a large concentration of Umrah tour operators that mostly cater to the expatriates.
    Muhammad Ismail, a tour operator, said his company has been receiving more enquiries than actual registration for the Umrah trip. “Intending pilgrims are concerned about swine flu and hence hesitant to visit Makkah,” he said.
    Media information on swine flu in the Kingdom has created awareness among the people, who have adopted a wait and watch policy before actually deciding to go on a Umrah trip, tour operators say.
    According to sources some of the companies have issued advisory to their staff urging them to avoid going for Umrah this season, citing swine flu concerns.
    Muhammad Pervaiz, a Pakistani pilgrim, who accompanied his wife on a Umrah trip said the couple decided to go to Makkah, despite advisory from the company. He said during their stay in Makkah and Madina the couple would take all possible precautionary measures such as washing hands, wearing face masks in crowded areas and to cover their faces with hand while sneezing or coughing.
    Ismail, the tour operator, said some of the intending pilgrims are enquiring if they should buy face masks from Riyadh or the protective gear is available on their way to the holy cities. Several families are planning to leave their young children in Riyadh itself, he added.
    However, other tour operators say it would be too early to say how the prevailing conditions might affect the Umrah business this Ramadan. The decline in Umrah demand indicated that there will be at least 40 percent less traffic during Ramadan, he said.
    Hotels in the Makkah and Madina have also reduced their rates allowing Umrah operators to slash the package tour price.
    The packaged rate for a three-day tour from Riyadh to Makkah and back has dropped to SR120 this year as compared to SR160 last year during Ramadan.
    Similarly, the five-day packaged tour dropped this year to SR180 from SR210 last year.
    A packaged tour includes two-way transport and hotel accommodation in the holy cities. However, the package tour rates vary depending on the distance between the hotel accommodation and the Harams in Makkah and Madina.
    Umrah traffic usually increases three-fold in Ramadan, when more people opt to spend time in Makkah and Madina during the holy month of fasting. Traffic also increases owing to the schools’ summer holidays. – SG
     


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