RIYADH – Riyadh companies organizing Umrah and Haj pilgrimages have seen a 20 percent fall in demand for services in Ramadan compared to last year and put the decrease down to fears of swine flu.
In response to what they describe as an “unprecedented” drop in customers, pilgrim firms have begun reducing charges, offering discounts of up to 15 percent on last year’s prices in attempts to fill reservations made by the firms at hotels and furnished apartments.
Umrah pilgrims are currently charged between SR500 and SR700 each for “medium standard” packages and between SR900 and SR1200 for “VIP” class trips, which cover round-trip air tickets, accommodation and meals.
The rising number of swine flu cases and deaths across the Middle East has cast a cloud over Ramadan, with a plunge in the number of people going to Makkah to perform Umrah.
Business in Makkah could be down by 40 percent in the coming month because of flu fears, officials said.
Hotels in the central zone of Madina, meanwhile, say they face losses of over 70 percent during the Ramadan Umrah season due to fears over swine flu.
Marwan Hifdhi, deputy head of the Hotel and Tourism Committee at Madina’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said hotels in the vicinity of the Prophet’s Mosque at this time would normally be expected to be completely full.
“Losses at hotels and stores in the central zone during this month have been huge by any standards,” Hifdhi said. “Most tourist and Umrah companies have suffered great losses that will only increase in Ramadan due to cancellations.” – Okaz/SG