Travel agents told to cap price of their Haj packages

National 2 minutes, 8 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE religious affairs minister has urged travel agents to cap the price of their Haj packages, anticipating it may cost up to $30,000 for Bruneians to perform the pilgrimage in the near future.

At the 12th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday, Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman voiced concern over the rising price of Haj packages in the sultanate.

“In the next five years, it could (increase between) $20,000 to $30,000 and so on. Who will be able to afford such rates?” he said.

Highlighting the escalating costs of performing pilgrimage, he said Haj packages were previously offered at $10,000 around four to five years ago. However, travel agents in the country now charge customers up to $15,000.

The minister indicated the price tag could increase further this year, following directives from Saudi authorities on the new fee for Masyair. “The annual Haj negotiation on Masyair, which is Arafah and Mina, was held two weeks ago. Last year, they set (the fee) at 6,000 riyal, but this year it is 8,000 riyal. Our officers managed to negotiate for only 7,000 riyal,” he said.

While he acknowledged the difficulty in reducing costs due to such external factors, YB Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin believed travel agents could explore ways to control the price of Haj packages.

“New and old companies can explore how our neighbouring countries are able to perform Haj for less than $10,000 without jeopardising their worship,” he said, noting other pilgrims stay in hotels close to the Grand Mosque over a shorter period compared to Bruneians.

He also called on travel agents in the sultanate to look into the possibility of offering Haj packages with durations of less than a month. “The suggestion to shorten the duration of pilgrimage from one month has been brought up often. There is talk of people who wish to perform Haj but can only take (long) leave from work,” he said, adding the relevant parties should consider its implementation.

The minister said the government’s move to allow more travel agents in recent years to offer Haj packages was aimed to boost competition and provide wider options for pilgrims. “Currently, our Haj packages are considered “prime Haj” as our pilgrims are accommodated in an area close to Mas-jidil Haram and Masjid Madinah. The services we receive, Alhamdulillah, are tip-top... but what about in the future?” he questioned.

YB Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin hoped the travel agents will take steps to control the price increase for Bruneian pilgrims.

The Brunei Times