Only 1,200 applicants from Qatar have so far been granted permission to perform Haj this year, following a major cut in the quota imposed by Saudi authorities.
The Saudi government has strictly restricted the number of pilgrims from all countries in view of the massive expansion work at the holy premises in Makkah.
The Haj and Umra Department at the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs has picked 1,200 people - 800 citizens and 400 expatriates - from hundreds of aspiring pilgrims who applied online. The Department on Sunday announced the results. The selected applicants have already been informed through text messages, a local Arabic daily reported yesterday.
The winning candidates are required to complete the necessary formalities through any one of the authorized Haj tour operators (Muqawils). In the first phase, there are 10 Muqawils responsible organising Haj trips by air and six Muqawils operating by road, said the daily.
Meanwhile, several tour operators expressed disappointment over the reduction in quota, saying they will incur heavy losses.
“There are a total of about 30 Muqawils in the country and if the 1,200 pilgrims are equally divided among them, each will get only 40 pilgrims. It is not feasible to operate trips with such a small number of pilgrims,” a tour operator was quoted as saying.
He felt that the new development could force some Muqawils to stop operations. “Merger between two or more tour operators is another possibility,” he added.
Tour operators are not expecting any further hike in Haj tariffs from Qatar this year.
“The fares for pilgrims travelling by air could vary from QR17,000 to QR20,000 while those travelling by road may have to pay between QR9,500 and QR11,000,” said an operator.
He said this does not indicate any big difference compared to last year since the highest fare last year for those travelling by road was QR12,000.
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