Umrah programs extended, now services can be sought digitally

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By Abdulaziz Ghazzawi

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH –
The amendments in rules for Umrah companies, approved recently by Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Saleh Bin Taher Benten, allow extension of the Umrah programs and purchasing services packages through “Maqam” e-portal within the visa’s validity period.

The Maqam portal is an online platform designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally. It also compares the prices of competing service providers, checks the status of flights and bookings, and makes electronic visa applications without the need to travel to an embassy.

The amendments also allow optional services packages for visitors arriving on visit visa from 49 countries and external agents enabling them to perform Umrah. These visitors will be allowed to perform Umrah without making it conditional on them to purchase transport services within the package for Umrah pilgrims arriving via land crossing points on board foreign buses.

The visitors must mention the border crossing point when submitting the application for visit visa for the purpose of performing Umrah.

Deputy Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr. Abdulfattah Bin Sulaiman Mashaat has said that the said amendments allow authentication of the purchase contracts for Umrah companies from hotels, electronically, through Maqam e-portal.

They have also allowed accepting all categories of IATA membership, as a condition for qualifying as an external agent. These include the “travel agency” category or the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Certificate or the membership certificate for the Universal Federation of Travel Agents Associations (UFTAA) or the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Mashaat said the amendments were the result of comprehensive studies carried out by a working team from the ministry. It included all parties to the service — like, service providers and beneficiaries.

This was with the objective of raising the standard of services provided to pilgrims, creating a competitive environment for improving the experience of the Umrah pilgrim and visitor and enriching it. They also aim to cut down procedures to the minimum to ensure precision and quality performance.

Minister Benten had met recently in his office in Jeddah with members of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah, to brief them about the amendments.

The meeting was held in the presence of Mashaat, Undersecretary of the Ministry for Umrah Affairs Dr. Abdulaziz Wazzan, Chairman of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Marwan Sha’ban, members of the committee and a number of officials in the Umrah sector.


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