RIYADH: Umrah tour operators in Riyadh have doubled the price of the pilgrim’s package tour from the normal price of SR 110 ($30) to SR 200 per person, and this will triple in anticipation of heavy crowds during the Umrah season. Ramadan.
This will further increase to SR300 during Qiyam Al-Layl, the last ten days of the holy month, tour operators in the Saudi capital have said.
“The huge rush was due to the holy month of Ramadan, as most people want to spend these days in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah,” a leading Umrah operator in the city told Arab News.
“The rise in package prices is due to the influx of pilgrims during Ramadan,” the operator explained. They also cited an increase in VAT to 15% as one of the reasons for the price spike this year.
Prices for Umrah packages increase every year during the month of Ramadan. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was increasing to SR200 until 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the rush was limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, but with the return to normal this year, the prices of Umrah packages have climbed up to SR300 due to the influx of pilgrims.
Worshipers and Umrah pilgrims returned to the courtyards of the Grand Mosque in Mecca at full capacity last month after Saudi authorities announced the lifting of precautionary measures against COVID-19 and the return to normal in the Kingdom.
The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque has reactivated its operational worship plans at full capacity, with its field teams removing social distancing stickers.
Worshipers stood side by side in spiritual scenes after social distancing measures for prayers and tawaf ended.
These preparations for the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque preceded the holy month of Ramadan.
King Saud University faculty member Mohammed Wakil Ahmed, who went to Umrah with his family last Thursday, told Arab News: “Tour operators now charge SR200 per person for Umrah trip from Thursday to Saturday, from SR 100 to SR 110 before the Ramadan season.”
Weekend packages for trips to Makkah and Madinah start at 4:00 p.m.; from Riyadh on Thursday and end at midnight on Saturday, he said.
He added that each family is allocated a large room, while single men must share a room with three other pilgrims.
There are around 100 Umrah tour operators spread across the capital, with a concentration of them in Hai Al-Wizarat and Batha districts.
Arab News visited various tour operators to check the prices of Umrah packages. Anwar Badr Travel charged SR 250 for last week’s trip and SR 300 for this week, Al-Saria said it charged SR 230 for last week and SR 280 to SR 300 for this week, Al-Jiad Travel said it charged charged SR 190, SR 230 for weekend last week and SR 280 for this week, while Al-Rushd travel charged SR 250 for last week and SR 300 for this week.
Fares tend not to vary greatly between Umrah tour operators in Riyadh. Buses depart from Hai Al-Wizarat and Batha neighborhoods with stops at the central bus station so authorities can tally the number of pilgrims.
During the journey, the coaches stop at three points for Maghreb prayers, Isha prayers and for dinner. Pilgrims change into their ihram at Meeqat in Taif, where they have half an hour to don their ihrams at the Meeqat point, and they can perform Fajr prayers in the holy city of Makkah.
There are many mosques, food stores and shops along the roads from Riyadh to Makkah.
Flights from Riyadh to Jeddah are also filling up. According to a major airline ticketing company in Riyadh, air ticket prices have also increased and fluctuated between SR 1,500 and SR 2,000.
There are relatively cheaper tickets for odd times, but they will also total around SR 1,000, the operators said.