Visitors who come to Madinah to pray at the Prophet's Mosque have been complaining about the exceptional high rates of hotels and furnished apartments, especially in the area around the mosque. They have urged the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) to intervene and put an end to the soaring prices.
According to sources working in the sector, the occupancy rates in hotels near the Prophet's Mosque have reached more than 98 percent, while the prices have increased by over 65 percent. They said the visitors were complaining that there were no vacancies and that reservations were not available until after the Haj season, which falls in October.
Ahmed Al-Dhiyabi, a Saudi citizen, said he had been searching in vain for a room or a suite in the hotels close to the mosque. "All receptionists told me there were no rooms available. I tried my luck in the furnished apartments away from the mosque only to find that their prices were unbearable," he said.
Pakistani Mujeeburrahman Afzal advised visitors not to look for accommodation in the central area. "You will just be wasting your time," he told the
He said the rates of furnished apartments had gone from SR 250 per day to more than SR 420. "I had no choice but to go to Pakistan House 2, which has been allocated for Pakistani pilgrims and visitors," he added.
Ahmed Fallatah, a Saudi national, asked the SCTA to step in quickly to control the prices of hotels and furnished apartments in the city. The commission had allowed the furnished apartments all over the Kingdom to increase their rates in the high summer season by 50 percent and hotels by 30 percent.
Fallatah said despite these limits set by the SCTA, the facilities had increased their prices by more than 65 percent.
A director of the division of rooms in a hotel who did not want to be identified said occupancy in hotels in the central area had reached more than 98 percent. He pointed out that most hotels preferred to sign contracts with Haj and Umrah companies that bring pilgrims and visitors from outside. "These long-term contracts ensure the hotels with occupancy throughout the year," he said.
Ahmed Al-Sahali, an official in another hotel at the central area, said the hotels were competing against each other by providing special services to the guests. "We also provide special facilities to businessmen on executive floors," he added.
He noted that hotel occupancy was usually high during this time of the year, due to school summer vacation. "This year, the holidays coincided with the Umrah season, taking occupancy to its highest level," he said.
Al-Sahali feared that visitors would face yet more problems finding accommodation in Madinah during Ramadan, which is a month away. "Finding a hotel room during the last 10 days of Ramadan is next to impossible," he warned.