Makkah/Mumbai: Around 250,000 Umrah pilgrims have booked hotel rooms in Makkah and Madinah through the new “Sijjil” electronic system, said Deputy President of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah Abdullah Qadi on Saturday.
Reserving hotel accommodation through the system, introduced by the Ministry of Haj, has resulted in savings of 10 to 15 percent for pilgrims, he was quoted as saying by local media.
“The system also helps in solving the problems of hotels in Makkah. All the hotels and their rates are displayed for Umrah firms with the click of a button. The names of hotels, people responsible for reservation along with their mobile numbers and e-mails are all visible within seconds. Five stars hotels have also been added to the system,” said Qadi.
Before the application of the electronic program, many mediators were involved in reserving hotel accommodation, resulting in higher costs and time, he said.
Qadhi also said he expects a 25 percent increase in the number of Umrah performers this year against 6 million last year.
Abdul Rahman Sabbagh, member of the tourism committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the problem facing the hotel business in Makkah is that the supply is higher than demand.
“The inner circle of hotels surrounding the Grand Mosque has a high demand during the Umrah season. Then occupancy demand moves to the second and third circle during Ramadan,” he was quoted as saying.
He said all hotel owners wish the country receives about 7 million Umrah pilgrims. “Such a high figure will revive the market and bring hyper activity,” he added.
The season for Umrah begins from the Islamic month of Safar and ends in Shawwal. This year's Umrah season began with the arrival of the first batch of 489 Umrah pilgrims last Friday. They arrived at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah from Malaysia.
Umrah pilgrims from India and other countries are also on their way to Makkah, with the first batch leaving on November 27 from Mumbai International Airport.
Besides 'Sijjil' - electronic system for hotel booking, the ministry of haj also use electronic system for issue of visa. The system has made the process of getting Umrah visas easy, Minister of Haj in Saudi Arabia, Bandar Hajjar, said, adding that six million Umrah pilgrims used this facility last year.
Saudi missions do not charge any fees for Umrah or Haj visas.
“There is no logic behind such talks. The Kingdom has been spending billions of riyals to make Haj and Umrah easy and comfortable for pilgrims", the minister is quoted by local daily Arab News.
"The ministry is working hard to provide the pilgrims an opportunity to perform Umrah in an environment of serenity, dignity, security and confidence", he said.