The Jakarta Post
The cost of Haj for Bruneian pilgrims is anticipated to rise following the Saudi government's decision to reduce the number of pilgrims this year, a senior officer at one of the two authorised Haj and Umrah operators in the country confirmed.
The official, who declined to be named, said that an earlier statement by a member of the Haj and Umrah Committee at the Mekah Chamber for Commerce and Industry would "most likely" be applicable to Bruneian pilgrims as well.
He was referring to an Arab News report two weeks ago that quoted Saad Al-Qurashi, member of the Haj and Umrah Committee at the Mekah Chamber for Commerce and Industry, as saying that the cost of Haj would increase to compensate for the reduced number of foreign and domestic pilgrims.
"The actual Haj package rates for this year will only be informed to the public after Hari Raya but intending pilgrims should expect a rise in price within the 35 per cent mentioned by the Saudi's Haj committee," he said.
The increase is likely to be in the base price of the Haj packages, which include accommodation, meals and transportation, and might be exclusive of airfares, he said.
The senior officer said that the rising cost was beyond the travel agent's control and added that the increase in price should affect travel agents across the globe.
He said that "a lot" of pilgrims had made enquiries regarding the haj package rates and had been informed that the rates would only be available after the festive season.
"The increase in the price of the Haj packages are likely to be caused by the smaller number of Haj pilgrims this year controlled by the haj authorities in Saudi (Arabia)," said the senior officer.
The Haj Department of the Ministry of Religious Affairs has approved two companies for operating Haj and Umrah packages for a period of three years, starting from 1434 to 1436 Hijrah: Darussalam Holdings Sdn Bhd and Straits Central Agencies (B) Sdn Bhd.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs has asked Saudi Arabia to permit about 1,000 Bruneians to make the pilgrimage to Mekah. A total of 737 pilgrims have registered to perform Haj this year.
In June, it was reported that Brunei's quota for Haj pilgrims was cut by 20 per cent from 400 to 320.
Acting Director of Haj Affairs Department Abdul Kahar Husin said this was due to Saudi Arabia's decision to reduce Haj quotas while important projects are being carried out at Masjidil Haram mosque in Mekah and An-Nabawi mosque in Madinah.
He said the newly-registered for the pilgrimage would be put on a waiting list, depending on Brunei's quota.
He added that those who were unable to go to Mekah this year would be included in the 2014 or 2015 pilgrimages.
Hj Abdul Kahar said that the reduction in pilgrim numbers was temporary and that it applied to all countries.
Meanwhile, Saad said the decline in the number of pilgrims was expected to continue for three years.
In 2012, domestic Haj companies increased their fees by 30 per cent. One of the reasons given by the companies was that they were required to hire additional workers at a higher cost to make hurried arrangements to receive pilgrims because of the delay on the part of the Haj Ministry to allocate spaces at the holy sites.
Another reason cited for the increase in price was the rise in the price of meat and other commodities.
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