Hajj cost and capacity constraints deter Malaysian pilgrims

MALAYSIAN hajj tour operators offering packages for Muslim pilgrims said that the ever-escalating hotel prices, insufficient facilities and long waiting list are discouraging many from making the trip.

“A package costs an average of RM19,000 (US$6,290), which is the entire life savings for some pilgrims. How do we expect every Muslim to fulfill their greatest wish to perform the hajj in their lifetime?” said Prof Dr Abdul Rahim Said, adviser to Rahman Brothers Travel and Tours, during the 5th International Conference on Muslim Tourism, Hajj and Umrah 2011 in Kuala Lumpur.

“The infrastructure cannot meet the needs of the over two million pilgrims from around the world who make the journey annually. Furthermore, there is an average 20-year waiting list. In Malaysia, only some 28 operators are authorised to offer hajj packages,” he added.

The governing authority in Makkah has imposed a limit of 0.01 per cent of Muslims from each country yearly regardless of its population. Around 26,000 Malaysians make the journey through tour packages that include airfare, accommodation, meals and ground transportation.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Dato Mohd Khalid Harun said that two- or three-star hotels are needed instead of the crop of luxury hotels.

“The government also needs to allow more airlines to fly pilgrims instead of just Malaysian Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines. More opportunities can be created when there is competitiveness. As it is only, 27 operators are authorised for hajj tours.”

– Read the full report in TTG Asia, April 29

By Ellen Chen

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