Umrah companies and hotels outraged by new SCTA policy
Relations are tense between major Umrah and hotel groups in Mecca and Madina, and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) because the former refuse to comply with the new regulations issued by the SCTA. The trouble started when SCTA decided to supervise two hotels that were previously being looked after the Ministry of Haj and then the decision to implement new conditions.
Under the revised terms, all hotels are now linked to the Centre for Umrah Service Regulations (CUSR), a move that is expected to incur huge losses to the Umrah companies. Previously, a manual system was in place that allowed Umrah companies and hotels to go to the Ministry of Haj with official documentation detailing their capacities.
“Since the beginning of this year, Umrah companies have had to enter their data electronically. In the past, when everything was done manually, the Ministry of Haj was the sole reference for the companies,” said CEO of Shaair Company for the Promotion of Tourism, Ahmed Sheikh Alawai Bafakeeh. He added that Umrah companies were outraged when they learnt that mere Haj permits were insufficient to book hotels for their groups despite having paid large sums of money to the same. “The owners of the hotels were similarly surprised by the lengthy procedures they have to fulfill in order to be allowed to accommodate pilgrims under new SCTA rules and regulations. To obtain licenses to accommodate pilgrims, hotel officials have to spend a long time going to the SCTA, the Civil Defence and the municipality to complete paperwork," explained Bafakeeh.
The only way to resolve the matter, said Bafakeeh, was to allow for some flexibility during the transition period and the implementation of new rules should be a gradual process.
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