KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Several travel agencies offering umrah packages have urged the government to reconsider its decision to temporarily suspend the permission to perform the pilgrimage.
TH Travel & Services Sdn Bhd (THTS) chief executive officer Datuk Ahmad Ruzman Ahmad Razali said the suspension would result in prospective pilgrims who had made bookings and payments incurring high costs.
“The umrah visa will only be issued after travel agencies made payments which include hotel and transportation costs through the e-wallet system provided by Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry.
“If there is a delay on our part, the paid amount will not be refunded. Therefore, whatever costs that will incurred by the pilgrims and the travel agencies should be taken into account,” he told a press conference, here, today.
Present were Association of Travel Agencies, Umrah and Haj (PAPUH) president Datuk Seri Razali Mohd Sham, Association of Bumiputera Tourism Operating Companies Malaysia (BUMITRA) honorary secretary-general Ab Rahman Mohd Ali and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) vice-president Mohd Azri Abd Razak.
Meanwhile, Ab Rahman said the pilgrims are estimated to incur losses amounting to RM210 million for the first quarter of 2022.
According to him, travel agencies would also have to deal with claims filed by umrah pilgrims at the Tribunal for Consumer Claims or civil court as a result of the travel suspension.
“This travel suspension will definitely have a big impact on the affected travel agencies,” he said.
Meanwhile, Razali suggested that umrah pilgrims be given priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot if the government reversed its decision to temporarily suspend the permission for travelling to perform the pilgrimage.
“We also hope that the Health Ministry will increase the number of Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test counter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) as well as its staff on duty to speed up the screening process,” he said.
The government has decided to temporarily suspend the permission for travelling to perform the umrah beginning Jan 8 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
In announcing this today, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the authorities were concerned that non-compliance with home quarantine procedures among returning pilgrims had caused the spread of the new variant among family members.